Chief executives and senior officers of NHS bodies should publish their expenses - including hospitality and hotel stays - as a matter of course, according to Scotland’s information commissioner.

Kevin Dunion told HSJ it was an issue of accountability, and said the more senior the officer, the more important it was.

“There is now a public expectation that such information should be published and I think it fair and legitimate for it to be reported,” he said.

“I think we should see the whole package of reward, and that includes salary, pension and expenses.”

Openness

The Scottish information commissioner published his fifth annual report on Monday, with a plea for more openness. He said senior officers of other public bodies should follow the examples of Scotland’s chief constables and assistant chief constables, virtually all of whom have volunteered to publish their expenses.

“I’m not being naive about it - if it makes NHS chief executives think twice about what they spend, then that’s no bad thing,” he said.

The commissioner also revealed the results of research which showed that health bodies recorded far fewer requests under freedom of information legislation than other public bodies, including local authorities and the police. The mean number of requests to Scottish NHS bodies was 135, compared with 502 for local authorities and 808 for police forces. There was just one recorded request to GP practices.

The commission plans to carry out an audit in an NHS body this year to find out more about how requests for information are handled.

Freedom of Information Act extension

Mr Dunion also repeated his call for the Freedom of Information Act to be extended to cover private contractors delivering public services, for example under the private finance initiative or public-private partnership arrangements.

“I’m having a very active discussion with government about it and I’m hopeful that by the end of my term [2012] some public-private partnership contractors will be designated. Firstly, there’s a moral obligation because they are spending large sums of public money,” he said.

“Secondly, it’s in the companies’ own interests because they would become masters of their own destiny - they would be able to argue their case for keeping commercially sensitive information private, whereas at the moment they are relying on public bodies [who hold the contracts] to do it for them.”