A primary care trust is risking a potential stand-off with two of its foundation trust providers after telling their boards to meet in public.
West Sussex PCT has written to its provider foundations and an applicant trust to “emphasise [the] expectation” of public board meetings following pressure from local campaigners.
“The PCT board has concluded that to ensure adequate public accountability, all trusts, including foundation trusts, that provide services for the people of West Sussex, should hold regular board meetings in public,” said a report published by the PCT in July.
But the board of Sussex Partnership foundation trust, which currently meets in private, said it had no plans to change to public meetings. The PCT’s other large foundation provider, Queen Victoria Hospital foundation trust, also currently holds board meetings in private.
A trust spokesperson said it had not received any correspondence from the PCT and did not have any plans to change its policy of meeting in private. She said its governors met in public and a governor attended each board of directors meeting.
However, the board of a third provider, Western Sussex Hospitals trust, has agreed in principle to meet in public should it be granted foundation status.
West Sussex PCT assistant chief executive Brian Hughes said the trust was meeting with its providers to discuss the issue.
“We firmly believe that foundation trusts should hold their board meetings in public, and more importantly we know that the public expects this of them,” he said. “We have already begun talking to existing and aspiring foundation trusts locally about our expectations, and we fully intend to continue with this dialogue.”
But some foundations, and the Foundation Trust Network, argue they can be transparent and open without holding board meetings in public because they have elected governors and regular public governors meetings.
They argue that trust directors can be more challenging and open to each other if they meet in private. Monitor has said it is up to individual foundations to decide.