NHS Tayside has defended criticism of a “rapid rise” of “unanswered public questions”.
According to the latest figures, the local health board declared 529 freedom of information requests as “exempt” last year.
This figure has increased by 50% since 2014, when only 355 exempt requests were recorded – increasing in each of the last five years.
Freedom of information legislation allows members of the public access to information held by public authorities, some of which is not published without a specific request.
North East region Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said an increasing level of scrutiny is good for transparency.
However, he said the “rapid rise” of unanswered questions was “cause for concern” which may risk confidence in NHS Tayside if allowed to go unchecked.
He said: “It is concerning to know so many questions – for the most part perfectly reasonable – go unanswered.
“This is even more so when there has been a rapid rise in the rate of refusal, spiralling by so much in such a short space of time.
“Of course there are areas of sensitivity but I believe there needs to be a change in public accountability for health boards – so much information should be readily available and published as a matter of course.
“A lack of transparency risks public confidence but that culture needs to be established from the top.”
Since 2014, NHS Tayside has had six appeals to the Information Commissioner on the exemptions – four appeals made to the commissioner in 2016, one appeal in 2017 and one appeal in 2018.
A NHS Tayside spokesperson said its information governance team has never failed to respond to a Freedom of Information request, although speciific questions may not have been answered.
She said: “All Freedom of Information Scotland Act (FOISA) requests received by NHS Tayside are robustly assessed in line with FOISA and Data Protection legislation and answered accordingly.
“NHS Tayside has never failed to respond to a Freedom of Information request.
“During 2018, NHS Tayside received 826 FOISA requests. In some cases, information requests may come under the exemption categories within FOISA legislation and when this happens we cannot provide the specific information requested.
“During 2018, only 28 FOISA responses were issued where no information was provided and an appropriate exemption(s) applied.”