Headlines: December 9th, 1998

The National Health Service has been told to hold more meetings in public, as part of moves towards greater openness.Health Secretary Frank Dobson has given guidance to all NHS Trusts and Health Authorities on best practice in opening up board meetings, including changing meeting times so that they are out-of-office hours and inviting local interest groups to take an active part.

The guidance states that the new Primary Care Groups which go live next April will also hold board meetings in public.

Mr Dobson said: “This Government wants to see greater openness and community spirit throughout the NHS. The public has a right to see how the decisions are reached on their local health services.

“I do not intend this to be a cosmetic exercise. The public should be able to observe the Trust’s decision making process so that they can understand the internal arguments, tensions and restrictions which lead to a decision.”

The Order that NHS Trust Board meetings be open to the public has been confirmed in the House of Lords and means such meetings are now covered by the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960, which gives access for the public and press to a range of meetings of public bodies spending public money. This includes, for instance, local councils.

Full details of the guidance are on the Department of Health website at www.open.gov.uk./doh/coinh.htm