‘We have been gagged’ councillor tells Lincolnshire hospitals meeting as public questions are stopped

Coun Ray Wootten.
Coun Ray Wootten.
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The new chairman of the trust which runs Grantham hospital has been criticised for putting an end to public questions at board meetings.

Professor Dean Fathers has just become chairman of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust and has angered people by putting an end to questions.

The board met at Grantham Hospital this week where regular attender Coun Ray Wootton stood up before the meeting began to say he was unhappy with Prof Fathers’ decision.

Coun Wootten said: “We are extremely disappointed by this decision not to have public questions. We feel we have been gagged and we are angry because we also ask questions on behalf of the people of Grantham who already have a low opinion of the board. We ask you to put public questions back on the agenda.”

Prof Fathers responded in a statement to the Journal. He said: “ULHT is an open organisation which is accountable to the people of Lincolnshire and we welcome input from the public. 

“Councillor Ray Wootten, and all members of the public, are welcome at our board meetings which are held in public. We have taken the decision to take public questions off the beginning of the board agenda but at the end of the meeting I welcome feedback and observations of the meeting. Councillor Wootten was involved in this discussion at the end of our recent Board meeting.  There are many ways members of the public can ask questions of ULHT. The main way is to ask Board members at our public locality forum meetings. These meetings are held in each of our hospital towns every three months. Each meeting has 20 minutes for questions to the panel, and questions and answers are formally recorded and published on our website. These also are reported to the Trust Board every quarter. 

“I am personally meeting stakeholders to talk about how we can better work together, and how their views can shape the work of the Trust. I met with both Councillors Ray and Linda Wootten in May, and asked if they’d like to help the Trust to find someone from the Council to be a governor on a new Trust Members’ Council I am passionate about setting up. Governors will be important in holding our Board to account and the Members’ Council would provide the appropriate place for all his questions to be raised and answered. 

“We also welcome the public contacting us on Twitter, Facebook and via our website or even by sending us questions in advance of the Board meeting which I then pass to the relevant non-executive director to ask where appropriate.”

Coun Wootten said people should still be able to ask questions of the board when it met as it was a body accountable to the public .

The leader of South Kesteven District Council, Coun Bob Adams, also attended Tuesday’s meeting. He said: “Public bodies should be accountable and accept they are open to challenge and should not try and stifle public participation.”