June 18, 2019 12.14 pm This story is over 29 months old

Health shake-up organisers backtrack on public meeting gagging order

Residents were concerned about a lack of transparency

Health bosses have backtracked on a decision to make people attending their engagement events sign a gagging order following backlash.

Those attending the Healthy Conversation events on the shape of the health services in Lincolnshire were originally asked to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement not to divulge information obtained while participating in the ‘workshops’.

Campaigners blasted the order as “secretive” and “an insult to democracy”.

The agreements, which threatened disqualification from future workshops, included:

  • I hereby agree to abide by this code of practice for confidentiality and undertake to keep all confidential information that I may access in the course of my workshop participation strictly confidential.
  • I will refer all requests for information (including those from patients, relatives, the police or press) to the Lincolnshire NHS Communications Team.
  • I understand that I must not post any messages or have any discussions about any confidential aspect of my workshop participation on any social networking sites or websites.

Residents and health campaigners hit out at the request, with Boston-based Philip Bosworth saying the events had been “sullied” by the demand.

“What is “healthy” in any engagement with the public, about threatening no entry unless one agrees to a restrictive NDA?” he said.

“It is grossly unfair, undemocratic and totally restrictive and must be challenged.”

However, a Lincolnshire STP spokesman said there had been a change of heart and a decision had been taken to instead hold the meeting under “Chatham House Rules”.

This means participants will be able to report what went on but not who said what at the meetings.

The spokesman said: “We received a very helpful suggestion from a member of the public that we should hold these sessions under the ‘Chatham House Rule’.

“We introduced the concept of a confidentiality statement in order to protect all participants, particularly those who choose to share personal experiences, and abide with GDPR.

“We also want to ensure that the spirit of the session – open, honest and safe discussion is protected for all, and not restricted, and therefore will revert to this rule as the principle under which we will conduct the session.”

Following the change, Grantham Hospital Campaigner Jody Clark, said: “It was a little concerning to hear about the NDA at the next round of Healthy Conversations.

“It can conjure up all sorts of conspiracies for the public.

“ So it’s a relief to know that its more like the Chatham house rule, where we can speak freely about personal issues and know it stays confidential.

“ Whether its staff or public, we can express our concerns, using real life experiences and help the providers understand the needs of our community better.”

A spokesman for SOS Pilgrim Hospital said: “Yet again campaigners have been forced to step in and influence the situation so that they do the right thing.”

The next workshop is due to take place in Grantham tomorrow (Wednesday), for more information on Healthy Conversations click here.

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