NHS managers are looking to limit the public’s ability to use the Freedom of Information Act, making them pay for all but the most minor enquiries.
At the moment, public authorities can only charge those making Freedom of Information (FOI) requests if the cost of reply exceeds £450.
But the Foundation Trust Network (FTN) says its 200 members are spending around £30m on FOI requests a year, and administrative staff are being pulled off normal duties to deal with them.
It is estimated that each NHS trust spends between £175,000 and £250,000 a year dealing with FOI requests, amounting to "significant sums of public money being diverted away from the core business of caring for patients".
The FTN says that this “translates to 18 hours work, or two and a half person-days at £25 an hours before a charge is made for the cost of responding."
Consequently, the FTN has outlined intentions to charge for all but the most minor FOI requests.
Health campaigners have hit out at the move, describing it as "totally unacceptable" and "a terrible backwards step".
Ken Lownds, of the group Cure the NHS, said: "It is already an absolute nightmare for patients or loved-ones to get information.
"This is designed to make it even more difficult. It is totally unacceptable."
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "This move could make it prohibitively expensive to obtain information through FOIs, which would not be in the interests of accountability of transparency."
The select committee is due to review submissions later this year, before recommending changes to the law.
Private medical insurance is one way people can take control of their healthcare. With private medical cover, you can choose to be treated by a leading consultant, in a private hospital of your choice- compare health insurance online now.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012