Guidance for attending meetings in public

This page provides information about attending a meeting in public of one of our committees. 

meeting in public is where members of the public can attend to observe a formal meeting of a committee or board. However, observers are not permitted to join in the discussion.

It is different from a public meeting, which is an open forum to allow members of the public to ask questions and discuss issues with members of the NHS in Kent and Medway – usually on a specific topic.

In some cases, the chair of a meeting in public may agree in advance that questions can be taken at a dedicated point in the meeting - usually at the beginning or at the end of the agenda. If this is the case it will be made clear in any communication or publicity about the meeting. In some cases, we may request that questions are submitted to us before the meeting. This allows us to group similar questions together, answer as fully as possible, and make best use of time.

The chair will keep to the timing on the agenda to make sure all items can be covered sufficiently. This may mean the meetin is not be able to cover all questions. All public questions will be recorded in the minutes and responses will be published on our website alongside the minutes.

There will be limited space for observers at meetings in public so we will normally need people to reserve a place in advance. If the public seating is full we will not be able to allow anyone who attends without booking to come into the meeting room. To book a place at a meeting in public, click on the event you would like to attend in the events section of this site and the link to register will be found on the right-hand side of the event's webpage.

While the chair, and members of the committee or board, welcome the public and press to attend the meeting, there is an expectation that the committee or board will be able to conduct its business without undue interruption. 

Please keep noise and distractions to a minimum during the meeting, to allow everyone attending to hear and follow what is happening and being discussed.

Examples of things which can be distracting are:

  • Participating in conversations while another person is speaking.
  • Mobile phones ringing during the meeting. Please switch your phone off or put it on silent mode.

Public bodies have a common law power to prevent members of the public entering a meeting if they have reasonable grounds for believing they would disrupt the meeting by disorderly conduct and make it impossible for the body to conduct its business. 

Also, if the chair of the meeting considers there is a risk proceedings will be disrupted during the meeting, they can exercise the power during the course of the meeting. 

While we do not expect disruptive behaviour at our meetings held in public, we hope being clear about expectations will assist with them to run smoothly.

The chair of the committee or board is in charge of the meeting. It is the role of the chair to make sure members can discuss the published agenda items in the time available. The chair is also responsible for making sure it is a well-run and respectful meeting.

The meeting will begin promptly at the advertised time. Please allow yourself enough time to be comfortably seated for the start of the meeting. On arrival, you will be asked to sign in so we can keep an accurate record of attendance.

Venues for meetings in public will be chosen to make sure they have disabled access. Please let us know in advance if you have any specific accessibility requirements. We will have colleagues on hand on the day to support you.

To support everyone to hear the speakers, there will be microphones and a hearing loop in use at meetings in public.  

The meeting will be recorded to support the minute takers with accurate documentation for the official records. The meeting may also be filmed and may be streamed online. If the meeting is recorded this will be available afterwards on our website.

If you do not wish to be filmed, or if you would like to film or record the meeting, please make a meeting colleague aware when you arrive and sign in.

We will make the papers available online one week before the date of the meeting. You can find the papers to a meeting in public by searching for and selecting the particular meeting in the event section of this website.

If you cannot access the papers online, or require them in an alternative format, please contact us.

The minutes of meetings in public, and any recordings made, will be published on our website. Minutes will normally be approved at the next meeting of the committee or board and then published.

If you leave your email or postal address with us when you sign in for the meeting, we can send you the minutes of the meeting.

 

The committee or board members will sit at the front of the room. They will have name plates in front of them on the table and will be introduced at the start of the meeting.

Where the venue allows, we will aim to make tea, coffee and water available for attendees. Some venues do not allow refreshments to be consumed in the meeting room itself and if this is the case we will let you know when you arrive and sign in.

The information on a meeting in public will include a contact point for any queries as part of the venue and booking details provided ahead of the meeting.

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