Draconian Rules Restrict Reporting From Clinical Commissioning Group Meetings

Saturday, January 4th, 2014. 10:17pm

On the 26th of August 2009 The Cambridgeshire NHS PCT Board met in Cambridge's Masonic Lodge.

Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group is to meet in Cambridge’s Masonic Lodge (pictured) on Tuesday the 7th of January 2014 (Meeting papers)

It appears to me that certainly filming, and probably also tweeting, taking notes on a laptop, or even possessing a mobile phone in a Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) meeting has been forbidden by the GPs and others who run the organisation.

The CCG has a £854 million pound a year budget. To put that into context it is just under £1,000 per patient in Cambridgeshire, or around £1 million per GP. The CCG spends its money on services including, among other things, hospital care, out of hours GP services (unless practices retained responsibility), and ambulance services. NHS England, not the CCG, funds GPs

Section 3.14.3 of Appendix F of the NHS Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group’s constitution states:

Use of Mechanical or Electrical Equipment for Recording or Transmission of Meetings

Nothing in these Standing Orders shall be construed as permitting the introduction by the public, or press representatives, of recording, transmitting, video or similar apparatus into meetings of the Governing Body or Committees thereof. Such permission shall be granted only upon resolution of the Governing Body.

While it at first appears the first sentence can be ignored as it doesn’t ban anything; the second sentence suggests permission would be required in order to film, tweet, etc.

The apparent ban on even the “introduction” of a device like a mobile phone into a meeting of the CCG appears especially draconian to me. Many people have reasons for wanting to stay contactable, and such a rule could put people off attending meetings.

No mechanism is given for requesting the Governing Body to resolve to give permission to film, or tweet, from meetings. It is not clear if turning up seeking to film, or use a laptop, or a silent mobile phone, during a meeting would prompt the Governing Body to consider a resolution there and then either giving or denying permission.

My view is the GPs who run Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group should not be making it harder for members of the public, including professional journalists, to report on what they are doing. They approved the constitution which restricts reporting on their activities in February 2013.

Section 3.14.1 of the CCG’s constitution gives meeting chairs the power to “give such directions as they deem fit with regard to the arrangements for meetings and accommodation of the public and representatives of the press such as to ensure that the Governing Body’s business shall be conducted without interruption and disruption”. I think that is reasonable, but would suggest, based on my experiences elsewhere, making clear the act of merely filming a meeting or silently using a phone ought not be considered disruptive.

When a new law on opening up access to local government meetings was proposed recently I suggested adding Clinical Commissioning Groups to those bodies made subject to it, however when details of the proposal emerged Clinical Commissioning Groups were omitted and no MPs at the committee, or when it returned to the full House of Commons, took opportunity to add extra bodies, such as CCGs to the provision on access to local government meetings.

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12 comments/updates on “Draconian Rules Restrict Reporting From Clinical Commissioning Group Meetings

  1. Richard Taylor Article author

    While writing this article I noticed the CCG states it has a patient population of 883,601. The population of Peterborough in 2013 is officially estimated as 207,009 and Cambridgeshire’s as 806,700. The CCG actually covers a slightly larger area than Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Perhaps the hundred thousand or so difference is due to individuals not registered with a GP?

  2. Richard Taylor Article author

    Confusingly the version of the constitution linked from the CCG’s about us page is titled “Approved: 5 February 2013″. This is despite amendments being approved in December 2013 and an updated version appearing in the papers for that meeting which is also marked “Approved: 5 February 2013″ on the title page. No amendments made apply to Appendix F, which contains the elements I have commented on.

    The minutes of the meeting at which the constitution was approved record no discussion of the rules on the Use of Mechanical or Electrical Equipment for Recording or Transmission of Meetings.

  3. Richard Taylor Article author

    Quite how anyone is supposed to find out if a resolution to permit filming or tweeting, or as they put it, Use of Mechanical or Electrical Equipment for Recording or Transmission of Meetings has been made I don’t know.

    I’ve not spotted any such resolution in the meeting papers I have read.

  4. Richard Taylor Article author

    The CCG employs a communications team with a Twitter account @CambsPboroCCG; if the draconian rules were removed (either by amending the constitution or via a well publicised resolution to give permission to everyone to report on the meeting in any way they like so long as it’s not disruptive), perhaps they too would be able to publicise more about the CCG’s activities and the taxpayer would get greater value from the money spent on the communications team.

  5. Richard Taylor Article author

    A reader has noted via Twitter that the rule appears contrary to one of the CCG’s stated objectives:

  6. Richard Taylor Article author

    I’ve been wondering what the CCG could have had in mind in terms of “Mechanical Equipment for Recording Meetings”.

    Perhaps an etch-a-sketch, abstract meeting reports produced by spirographs, or people trying to relay what’s happening via tin can and string “telephones”?

    Or maybe the word mechanical has been included to ensure that film cameras were covered by the restrictions as well as digital ones and one could not evade their rules by sourcing a non-electrially wound film camera. Perhaps they were concerned someone might turn up with a mechanical cine camera?

  7. Richard Taylor Article author

    Video of me using the public speaking opportunity at Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group on Tuesday 7 January 2014 to suggest they ditch the draconian rules restricting reporting from their meetings:

    1. Richard Taylor Article author

      Section 3.14.3 of Appendix F to the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group Constitution still states a resolution of the Governing Body is required to permit the “Use of Mechanical or Electrical Equipment for Recording or Transmission of Meetings”.

      The minutes of the meeting which I filmed (which as usual don’t record what actually happened) state:

      A member of the public asked if permission to record the meeting by the BBC and other freelance journalists could be given. The Lay Chair confirmed that the Governing Body Resolutions permitted recording of and transmission from the Governing Body Meetings but only with the explicit permission from the Governing Body Members and members of the public in attendance. The Lay Chair asked the Governing Body and Members of the Public if there were any objections to the meeting being recorded/filmed. The gentleman who shared his patient experience requested that he and his family remained anonymous. The Governing Body resolved to allow recording in accordance with the discussion

      • The constitution requires a resolution of the board to be passed to allow the “Use of Mechanical or Electrical Equipment for Recording or Transmission of Meetings” it does not require permission from all Governing Body members (the minute is not clear as to what “permission from the Governing Body Members” means; it could be a majority or it could be all.
      • Any member of the public present holding a veto on the “Use of Mechanical or Electrical Equipment for Recording or Transmission of Meetings” would be odd; in practice those who didn’t wish to be filmed were asked to indicate their wish.
      • The member of the public sharing his “patient experience” was not anonymous; he was not presenting from behind a curtain; and in-fact, as noted elsewhere, he wasn’t identified until he was invited to speak. My recollection was he didn’t request anonymity.
  8. Richard Taylor Article author

    Some updates which I’ve tweeted:

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