The ICO exists to empower you through information.

The Trust was nominated for the Team of the Year award at the eCase FOI awards 2023. The ICO helped to judge the awards. We’re keen to share examples of practice that other public authorities can learn from, so we’re publishing this case study.

ICO comment: what this case study means

This case study shows that good FOI practice requires an overall culture of compliance, with a strong network of informed staff. Setting internal deadlines for the different stages of your request handling process can help ensure timely responses. Some organisations receive significantly fewer environmental information requests than FOI requests. However, you may experience a peak in interest in environmental issues, which requires you to quickly increase and consolidate your knowledge of EIR.


The Trust was formed by the merger of two pre-existing Trusts in October 2019. Since then, the Corporate Information Compliance (CIC) team have handled requests received on behalf of four hospitals.

The Trust employs circa 13,000 staff. There are five staff on the CIC team. The team is also responsible for providing data protection officer support, and other duties.

Building a compliance culture

To promote FOI awareness within the Trust, the CIC team has developed collaborative relationships with other departments. For example, they have daily engagement with HR, finance, IT, business intelligence and the Trust’s communications team.

Staff in senior management roles are usually identified as a point of contact for their area. The CIC team work with departments to pick the most appropriate point of contact. This decision is also influenced through the CIC team’s general experience of working with their colleagues over and above their FOI work. CIC staff work hard to develop and maintain strong working relationships with other teams. This puts them in the position to know the best person to ask about requests.

When new colleagues join a team that routinely deal with FOI requests, the CIC team suggest presenting an FOI workshop. This is designed to help new colleagues understand the Trust’s process in dealing with requests.

The Trust’s communications team flag any enquiries through the media, on social media or public enquiries which they consider “hot topics.” This allows the team to do some initial thinking about how they will gather information likely to fall under the scope of requests. They also consider any sensitivities around disclosing the information that requests will likely ask for.

Request handling approach

When the Trust receives a request, it is distributed to the relevant team or department and to the hospital leadership team for oversight. Any member of staff can handle a request, depending on who holds the requested data.

Some departments have a dedicated shared inbox for FOI requests. This allows staff within the department to access and respond to requests, or further delegate it if appropriate.

For example, CIC might pass a HR-related request to a workforce analyst via a shared inbox. The workforce analyst may then pass on the request to the relevant lead, for example a temporary staffing manager.

Area leads dedicate time to FOI responses and routinely provide a response within the internal deadline, set at seven working days from receipt.

The CIC team chase up requests if they do not receive a response from the department five or six days after sending. They check to ensure the request is sat with the relevant team or if the team needs any further assistance. If needed, the CIC team can give extensions to 10 working days.

Once the relevant team collates a response, it goes through a sign off process, which is as follows:

  • Officer collates the response and applies any applicable or relevant exemptions, based on the response from the department.
  • Officer sends the response to the senior officer for an initial review.
  • The response is sent to the deputy director of operations.
  • Once the deputy director approves the response, it is sent to the director of operations, who is part of the hospital leadership team.

The CIC team identified that when senior staff needed to consider sensitivities around disclosing information, they did not always have enough time to do so. This caused delays in issuing responses. The team then adapted their request handling process and their internal deadlines. Now, there is an expectation that senior staff complete any necessary review of a response by day 15 of 20.

EIR upskilling

In 2022/23, the Trust saw heightened public interest in the construction of the New Royal Liverpool University Hospital Building. The collapse of Carillion affected the construction project.

The Trust received a high volume of requests regarding the cost of works, contracts in place, ongoing legal action and other information about the hospital’s construction.

As the Trust received internal review requests, and then ICO decision notices about the requests, they recognised an opportunity to consolidate their learning. The team committed to reviewing ICO guidance to develop a stronger skillset to handle future EIR requests. Handling this influx of requests required the CIC team to:

  • strengthen their knowledge of EIR legislation;
  • learn when to apply EIR rather than FOI; and
  • understand how to identify suitable exceptions to information when it was relevant.


The Trust’s approach to FOI and EIR compliance has allowed them to maintain consistently high compliance rates.

  Requests received Compliance
2020/21 591 98%
2021/22 702 97%
2022/23 775 (FOI: 759, EIR: 16) 98%