Local health commissioner, Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) approved a proposal that will enhance its meetings in public by allowing use of up to date, modern technology and leading to greater transparency and openness.
The CCG approved guidelines for the public, and the media regarding the use of technology, including social media in its public meetings. The guidelines give practical information about how members of the public and media representatives can use social media, modern technology and communication tools to report on meetings they are attending.
The national rules have recently changed to ensure a range of public bodies are more transparent and accountable to their local communities. The CCG in line with these changes is now issuing guidelines for its own public meetings.
Mr Joe Slater, Chairman, Blackburn with Darwen CCG said: “We now live in a digital world where the use of modern communication methods such as filming, tweeting and blogging should be embraced to increase the openness and transparency of publically accountable organisations such as ours.
“Our new guidelines will ensure we have strong, 21st century, local democracy where we can be genuinely accountable to the local people whom we serve and to the local taxpayers who help fund the NHS”.
The new guidelines will help any members of the press and public who want to know about, view or report the work of the local CCG. The “press” is defined in the widest terms – including traditional print media, filming crews, hyper-local journalists and bloggers.
Blackburn with Darwen CCG will allow any member of the public to take photographs, film and audio-record the CCG’s public meetings. While no prior permission will be required to carry out this activity, the CCG will ask that any person wishing to film or audio-record a public meeting let the CCG staff know so that all necessary arrangements could be made for the public meeting.
Mr Slater added: “Whilst we would encourage people to contact staff in advance if they want to film or record, equally, we would discourage any system which “vetted” journalists or restricted reporting to “approved” journalists. The CCG supports free speech, and freedom of the press within the law, and does not seek to restrict comments. Under the new guidelines an individual can report meetings via social media of any kind. Therefore bloggers, tweeters, and for example, Facebook, YouTube users and individuals with their own website, should be able to report meetings”.
The CCG has committed to provide “reasonable facilities” to help individuals with their reporting of public meetings, including space to view and hear the meeting, seats, and where required a desk. Any person can provide written commentary during a meeting, as well as oral commentary outside or after the meeting, however the guidelines do not permit oral commentary to be provided during a meeting as this would be disruptive to the good order of the meeting.