Trinity Mirror digital boss sounds press freedom warning over Cameron NHS reforms

Amid growing concern about secrecy involving medical malpractice hearings – head of multimedia at Trinity Mirror regionals David Higgerson has written about the secrecy which surrounds decision-making at NHS Foundation Trusts.

Writing on his personal blog, Higgerson notes: “When Labour introduced the Foundation Trust status, the appeal for hospitals was that it brought extra freedoms. One of those freedoms was that it removed the requirement for board meetings to be held in public.

“There are around 100 hospital trusts with Foundation status, and according to evidence presented to a Parliamentary health committee in 2009, around two-thirds hold their board meetings in private.”

He noted that Heartlands NHS Foundation Trust in the West Midlands refused journalists access to its monthly board meetings.

Scandal-hit Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust also used to holds its meetings in private.

Higgerson said he wrote his blog post because of a speech Prime Minister David Cameron about the NHS on 7 June (yesterday) in which he said:

The whole point of our changes, the whole reason why transparency and choice are so important, is so that patients can hold the health service to account and get the care they demand, where they want, when they want.

Higgerson noted that whereas Primary Care Trusts must meet in public, there is no guarantee that the GP-led consortia they are set be replaced by be anything like as transparent.

Press Gazette wrote in April about proposals for more General Medical Council hearings to be held in secret.

If the Tories have any sense – they will take on board Higgerson’s concerns as part of their consultation on NHS reforms. Because the best insurance against corruption and malpractice is to open up the NHS to as much journalistic scrutiny as patient confidentiality will allow.

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