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15.04.16

NHS Improvement refuses to answer FOI request on agency cap breaches

NHS Improvement has refused to answer an FoI request for the names of trusts who have breached the cap on agency staff.

The person making the request, whose details are withheld, made two requests to Monitor, as NHS Improvement was then known, on 28 January and 19 February for a list of all trusts breaching the cap for every week since it was introduced on 23 November.

A sample survey of trusts from Liaison, published yesterday, found that 74% of shifts worked in the first ten weeks after the cap was introduced spent above the maximum by a total of £10.8m.

The response from Chris Mullin, economics director at the newly formed regulator, which he says was delayed beyond the 20 working days timeframe for answering FoI requests was because of “an administrative oversight”, and would be withholding the information under sections 31 and 33 of the Freedom of Information Act 200.

Section 31 says that information can be exempt from disclosure if it would prejudice the work of a public authority, in this case NHS Improvement. Section 33 allows a similar exemption for disclosures which would prejudice a public body’s ability to audit other public bodies.

Public interest exemptions apply to both clauses, but Mullin’s letter says that NHS Improvement has warned that the public interest argument in favour of releasing the information is outweighed by the potential damage to NHS Improvement’s work.

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