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Health chiefs bar reporter from leaving meeting with ‘public’ documents

Martin HowellA regional daily journalist was barred from leaving a public meeting with publicly available documents provided to him.

The Oxford Mail has called for greater transparency from health chiefs following the incident during a meeting of Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust’s board of directors.

The board has been required to hold meetings in public since 2012 but the Mail raised concerns after the unnamed reporter was stopped from leaving the room with copies of documents provided to the public.

Members of staff said the trust’s policy was to provide copies of reports during the meeting for reading, but people were not allowed to have copies on the day or take photographs of the documents – insisting the reports could not be published until a week later because they might be “subject to change.”

Mail assistant editor Keeley Rodgers posted on Twitter: “He was also stopped from taking copies of pages in the report under a policy apparently ‘in place for years’.

“All from a body supposedly accountable to the public. Only reviewing the policy after we challenged it. What are they trying to hide?”

The decision has been criticised by Oxford-based NHS transparency campaigner Sara Ryan.

She told the Mail: “I have been really encouraged by my conversations with Oxford Health about how they plan to take services on in the county, but this policy for meetings is terrible and I do not understand it.

“They need to be totally transparent if they want to instil confidence in services and make the public feel reassured.

“This is a ludicrous practice that could be easily dealt with by just making clear these documents are draft versions.”

Speaking to the Mail after yesterday’s meeting, board chairman Martin Howell said: “You have raised a question about our policy and I think we need to think about that and take it away.”