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Health / ‘Unprecedented pressure’ on health board staff as number of FOI requests reaches record high

REQUESTS from political parties is one key factor behind rising numbers of freedom of information (FOI) cases which is putting NHS Shetland staff under pressure.

More than 600 requests were received by NHS Shetland in 2022 – the highest number ever for a calendar year.

NHS Shetland chief executive Michael Dickson said the time pressure this puts on staff at a small health board is “enormous”.

He told a meeting of health board members on Tuesday that a large part of the issue is political parties putting FOI requests to every health board in Scotland.

Under FOI legislation people have the right to request information from public organisations in Scotland, such as councils and health boards.

It has traditionally been a popular tool for people like journalists, as well as curious members of the public with particular interests.

All requests must be reviewed and responded to in no more than 20 working days.

But a report presented to the NHS Shetland board on Tuesday said there continues to be a “disproportionate FOI burden on HR and information services”.

It said “staff are clearly doing a fantastic job under unprecedented pressure”.

Dickson said the high level of requests “detracts from critical patient care”.

He added that the principle of freedom of information was a right one, but conceded the health board was “not resourced” to deal with the current level of requests.

Referring to the blanket FOI requests, Dickson said “the legislation was never intended to be used in this way”.

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