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Health / Large number of freedom of information requests still placing big demand on NHS staff

THE NUMBER of freedom of information (FOI) requests made to NHS Shetland is continuing to put strain on staff.

Human resources and support services director Lorraine Hall told a meeting of the health board on Tuesday that staff could potentially spend on average a day a week dealing with requests, depending on their complexity.

NHS Shetland received 220 FOI requests in the third quarter of 2023/24, with around 70 per cent responded to within the target 20 working days.

Tuesday’s meeting heard that requests from political parties and suppliers are key factors behind the numbers, while the media also submit requests.

But any member of the public can also lodge FOI requests.

Hall said FOI requests take up an “inordinate” amount of time for NHS staff in Shetland.

Planning and performance officer Lucy Flaws suggested the health board could potentially make more performance data public in the first instance, but said it already publishes some information on “hop topic” issues such as supplementary staffing.

She added that FOI requests are often seeking quite specific information.

Hall said her directorate tend to get four or five requests a week on average.

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

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

Figures presented to the NHS Shetland board on Tuesday highlighted how in quarter one of 2023/24 the organisation received 186 FOI requests, dropping to 153 in quarter two before rising again to 220.

NHS Shetland also publishes a log of previous FOI responses online.

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