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  • Foundation Hospitals operating behind “closed doors”

    Posted on April 3rd, 2009 admin No comments

    I have found some interesting articles written by the Birmingham Post’s health reporter in the wake of the controversy relating to two local hospitals in her area. She claims that the move from becoming a ‘normal’ NHS Trust to Foundation status brings with it a reluctance to be as open with the public as they should be. Her comment piece is reproduced below and this links to the original article. If you work in the NHS do you think Foundation Hospitals are less open than their counterparts who are NHS Trusts? Please post your comments.

    AS a journalist reporting on the health service, I have found that coveted Foundation status has been a major pitfall of a changing NHS, writes Alison Dayani.

     It seems to have helped allow health chiefs to become more secretive and run hospitals without a usual level of public scrutiny. I feel its by-product has been to assist hospital executives in placing extra barriers against reporters exposing embarrassing failures and irresponsible actions. 

     There is no longer a full public openness of a service that is still primarily funded by you and me, the tax-payer.

     A veil of secrecy has come down on agendas, board minutes and other documents that were once al-ways held in public, openly questioned and made managers answerable to patients and relatives.

     Hiding behind the “commercial interest” loophole that allows meetings to be held behind closed doors, press officers no longer inform journalists of when trust board meetings are held and if I ask for minutes, I am directed to internet sites that make them hard to find or limited reports, with the most recent often more than a year old.

     I used to be able to wander into board meetings and be free to report whatever aspects of business they were discussing. There were numerous reports sent to me direct - governance, finance, nursing committees - that I could browse to understand the true state of the hospital.

     But Foundation trusts now rely on spin-doctors and communications teams who can be difficult in passing on the information you require, knowing that the alternative Freedom of Information Act allows them 28 days to reply and reliant on the journalist knowing exactly what document and specific information to ask for.

     They seem to have forgotten that the public funds their wages, pays the bills and has a right to know everything they do.

     A press officer at a non-Foundation city hospital with public meetings once moaned to me that it wasn’t fair her trust got more negative exposure as Foundation hospitals were “getting away with murder”, but problems were being kept behind closed doors.

     Unfortunately, it is that layer of secrecy that has now created a breeding ground for horrors such as Stafford Hospital - and the only ones that suffers are the public.

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