THE NHS trust that manages Whiston Hospital have failed to respond to freedom of information requests within the time limit on hundreds of occasions in 2017-18.

St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s board discussed its FOI annual report last week.

It was revealed that in 2017-18, the Trust received 673 FOIs.

These include requests from the press, the commercial sector, members of the public, students/researchers, MPs and staff.

Out of that figure, the Trust was only able to answer 52 per cent within the 20-working-day period.

“The Trust strives to respond to all requests in accordance with the 20 working days timeframe that the legislation dictates,” the report says.

“Out of the 673 requests received the Trust responded to 52 per cent within 20 working days with 48 per cent of responses being released after the deadline.

“The Trust is committed to continuing to improve our performance.”

Despite this, the Trust has received no requests for appeals in 2017-18.

The report adds: “The number of Freedom of Information requests received by the Trust has increased slightly this year and the team have seen an increase in the level of complex requests we are now receiving from requestors that have an increased awareness of Freedom of Information legislation.”

Francis Andrews, assistant medical director, told members the Trust is increasingly receiving requests from the private and commercial sector.

In 2017-18, the Trust received 344 requests from the commercial sector, although this is down from 354 the previous year.

In 2015-16 the Trust received 212 FOIs from the commercial sector.

“Continuing from the trend of the previous year the applicant type continues to come from commercial organisations requesting information about the Trust,” the report says.

“These requests make up 51 per cent of the total received. FOIA also remains an avenue that both local and national journalists use.

“This year we have seen a marked increase in the number of requests received into the Trust from the press.”

The press accounted for 172 requests in 2017-18, up from 122 in 2016-17 and 77 in 2015-16.

There were 16 requests from MPs in 2017-18, although it does not specify which MP sent the requests.

The Trust received 93 requests from members of the public in 2017-18, two from staff, 24 from students/researchers and 19 in the other category.

Three people did not specify.