NHS chiefs deliberate over webcasting big decisions

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HEALTH chiefs could broadcast their board meetings on YouTube in an attempt to boost interest in NHS Lothian’s work.

The organisation is desperate to increase public involvement and is attempting to find ways to have more people attend the bi-monthly meetings.

Although decisions sometimes worth hundreds of millions of pounds of public money are taken, few members of the public go along.

Even when the health board takes the meetings “on tour” to East, West and Midlothian to reach out to non-city residents, attendance remains low.

If the plans go ahead, NHS Lothian would be the first healthcare organisation in the UK to carry out such a move.

It wants the meetings to emulate city council events, which sometimes are oversubscribed by attendance, where arguably decisions of similar magnitude are taken.

As a result, it has come up with three options to boost initial interest, all of which involve it being filmed and then broadcast online, in a similar way to debates and committees in the Scottish Parliament.

Director of human resources Alan Boyter said: “We have been asked to consider the possibility of webcasting board meetings.

“Streaming them on the internet is one option – we don’t know of any other health board which does this.

“It would be done on a trial basis, then, after a couple of meetings, we could see how much interest there has been and present the findings.”

The most expensive alternative would be to bring in an external firm to professionally film the six-hour meetings, held every two months at its Waverley Gate headquarters.

Other options include purchasing the equipment and standing tripods at either ends of the room, then editing the footage down afterwards.

Several teething problems would have to be ironed out. As it stands, health board officials struggle to set a volume so everyone in the room can hear, let alone present a package for an audience online on sites such as YouTube.

Although major decisions are taken, which are of undoubted public interest, senior sources feel the organisation should be careful in drawing a balance between public scrutiny and the efficient running of the meetings. The source said: “It may seem nice to see the public interest in a council meeting, where you have deputations and presentations from all sections of the community. But these can run on for hours, there is a lot of unnecessary repetition, and as it stands the board works quite smoothly without that interruption.

“If you give the public a certain level of encouragement, eventually they’ll want to be involved in the meetings – to ask questions – and I don’t think that’s being grasped, it could turn into a circus.”

Bosses will now discuss the options and a decision is expected within the next couple of months.

amorris@edinburghnews.com