A new clinical ethics committee, set up by the Isle of Wight NHS Trust to advise how services should be reconfigured to deal with the coronavirus pandemic, is to remain in place with a broader remit.
In the past the trust has not had an ethics committee, which typically advises on ethical principles in deciding how to prioritise treatment with limited resources and provide input into trust policy, management and governance. However, the terms of reference for the Island’s new committee have yet to be agreed.
The current committee, which was established at short notice in April, does not include any non-NHS representatives. However the trust is in the process of making sure that the permanent body is more balanced, and will include staff from across the Island’s health economy as well as lawyers and patient representatives. It is planned to be an internal advisory committee, and although minutes will be taken of meetings they will not be made public. It will be chaired by the trust’s newly appointed medical director, Steve Parker.
Hans Bromwich of Cowes, who has been asking questions about the committee using the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act, said that the trust was in danger of solving one problem but creating another due to some of the processes they are introducing, for instance tele-medicine. He argued that reducing patient contact by providing treatments away from the hospital premises has implications beyond medicine, and input from other individuals and bodies such as social services was key.
He said: “It is regrettable that one has to go to the extraordinary lengths of submitting a FOI request to discover who sits on the trust’s ethics committee, and that members of the public do not have access to read the committee minutes. Minutes could easily be made available with any confidential patient information redacted.
“An ethics committee is one of the most important bodies an NHS trust can have. Its decision making needs to be open to public scrutiny.”
He added that he was surprised that the trust’s CEO, Maggie Oldham, was not listed as a member as she has a Master’s degree in Health Law and Ethics.