Only two out of the five acute foundation trusts which hold board meetings in private in the East of England have changed their policies, nearly a year being told to do so by the health secretary.

The Royal College of Nursing contacted all East of England trusts to ask about their policies on public meetings and to request copies of board papers. The James Paget University Hospitals Foundation Trust and Luton and Dunstable Hospital Foundation Trust both said they were now opening their meetings to the public and making documents available.

But Cambridge University Hospitals, Papworth Hospital and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals foundation trusts were unable to give dates for when their meetings would be opened.

They also provide only limited information on board meetings to the public - for example, only board of governors papers or redacted main board papers. The trusts say they are still considering timescales and implications.

Other trusts in the East of England already have public board meetings - including Hinchingbrooke Hospital, now run by the private company Circle, which will hold four meetings a year in public. Boards can vote to discuss confidential issues in private as a separate part of their agendas.

Karen Webb, RCN eastern region director, said: “We are concerned some hospitals may wish to pick and choose what the public gets to see and appear to be reluctant to lift the veil of secrecy that their decision-making boards have chosen to impose. 

“Secret board meetings inhibit appropriate scrutiny by the public, staff, governors, patient groups, and the media. We applaud those hospitals who have embraced greater openness and we will challenge those that do not.”

In June 2011, health secretary Andrew Lansley said foundation trust boards should meet in public and this requirement was included in the Health and Social Care Act.