Key messages

  • Board reports supply the board with the crucial information it needs to monitor the organisation.
  • Boards are obliged to hold an open access (open to the public) meeting at least once a year.
  • Board reports provide crucial insight into performance and future opportunities.

Reporting and open meetings are ways to improve transparency, accountability and consumer engagement in the operation of health service boards. The department provides guidelines to achieve this.

Health services reporting to their board

As part of its monitoring role, the board should receive regular reports from its subcommittees, the chief executive officer and other senior staff. The board should commission external reports as needed.

Directors should thoroughly review board papers in advance of board meetings to ensure meaningful and informed discussion. Board reports should be clearly marked as either information papers or decision papers. All decision papers should make a clear recommendation for action, preferably noting the options considered in coming to the recommendation.

Board reports should be reviewed regularly (preferably annually) to ensure they include the appropriate strategic, operational and financial information for the board to fulfil its role successfully. Board reports need to include information that confirms the board is complying with all its legal and regulatory responsibilities.

Holding annual open access meetings

The board of a health service, hospital or multipurpose service is required to hold at least one board meeting per year that the general public can attend.

Open access board meetings aim to give the public an opportunity to:

  • participate in decision-making processes
  • understand the rationale, context and environment for board plans and decisions.

Tips for running an open access meetings

  • Planning for the meeting should determine the best format and which board members will attend.
  • Meetings should focus on areas of community interest; for example, plans for capital development or changes to service delivery.
  • The board has discretion in determining the scope and approach for public participation.
  • Where relevant, a board sub-committee meeting may be more effective in creating community engagement than the full board.

Some items are unsuitable for public discussion; for example, human resources, client issues, litigation and other confidential matters.

Open access meetings should be separate from the annual general meeting, however, an open meeting could be held just before or after the annual general meeting. This might be practical and convenient in terms of attendance and venue.

Reasonable notice and promotion

Members of the public need reasonable notice prior to an open access meeting. The same notice period as the annual general meeting can be used. The meeting should be scheduled for a time that is convenient for people to attend.

The meeting may be advertised on the health service’s website, in the local press or community radio station, or through local community groups. 

The agenda should be made available before the meeting. The agenda should include the time and length of the meeting, and the scope of public participation. Any promotion should explain how to obtain an agenda. 

The board should consider public release of information discussed at the meeting.

Managing the meeting

Boards should consider how best to accommodate the number of people expected, the meeting format (for example, if small groups are being used), and governance guidelines, which will clarify the scope of the public’s participation.

Evaluating the meeting’s success

Evaluating open access board meetings is part of the board’s ongoing improvement activities. Health services should also invite public comment on the open access board meeting.

Guidelines for open access board meetings

Guidelines for running an open access meeting are available from the Department of Health & Human Services.