TEMPERS flared at a public meeting as governors discussed a proposal to appoint a spokesperson.

At a council of governors meeting at Dorset County Hospital yesterday, governors were asked to vote on whether they agreed with the suggestion.

But referring to yesterday’s Dorset Echo coverage of the issue which highlighted claims that governors were being ‘gagged’ by the new moves, Governor Eileen Nolan accused Governor Derek Julian of ‘leaking’ the meeting’s agenda to the press.

Governor Andy Hutchings replied that the agenda was already in the public domain and available online in the days running up to the meeting.

The proposal to appoint a spokesperson was put forward to the council of governors from a working group.

Mr Hutchings said he was not against appointing a governor spokesperson, but questioned the wording in the report which stated that “individual governors making comments to the media on their own behalf should make it explicit to the media that they are commenting as a member of the public (not in their role as governor).”

Mr Hutchings said: “I’m an elected governor and I’m happy to speak to the press with my personal views as a governor. I thought that was what was agreed.”

Mrs Nolan said: “As governors it is inevitable that sometimes we have different opinions. What bothers me is the fact that sometimes the impression is given that the governor speaking in the press is representing all governors. We need to talk about how to get that message across. It needs to be made clear that they are not representing the view of all governors.”

Governors suggested any single member of the council approached by the media for comment should state that their comments were as an individual and not representative of all governors.

Mr Hutchings also asked how the idea would work in practice if governors were not in agreement over an issue.

Governor Edward Gibbs said: “If someone is representing the board of governors they are not going to state each person’s view on that subject. They are putting over the information put to us and our interpretation. I think it is a matter of reporting the correct information instead of an opinion on something.”

Governors were largely in favour of the idea and a majority voted to refer the matter to a governor task and finish group to be discussed further.

But some remained opposed to appointing a spokesperson.

Derek Julian said: “I have found the Echo to be very fair. They are the guardians of freedom. I will continue to speak to the press any time, any place, if I feel it is necessary to tell the patients I represent anything that is bad or good about the hospital.”

And Michel Hooper-Immins said: “I will not accept that elected independent public governors should not speak to the public, to members or to the media as individuals. Of course they must not claim to speak for the council as a whole.”

‘Criminal waste of money’

A SUGGESTION to spend more than £3,500 on governor training was blasted as a ‘criminal waste of money’ at the meeting by governor Michel Hooper-Immins.

The suggestion came after some governors admitted they were confused about some aspects of the role at a meeting of the governors working group earlier this year.

Chairing the meeting, Dr Jeffrey Ellwood said he would meet with trust secretary Margaret Godfrey to come up with a solution ‘at the lowest possible cost’.