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Health boss sacking unfair, tribunal rules

PUBLISHED: 17:54 12 May 2010 | UPDATED: 09:49 12 August 2010

THE former chief executive of a debt-ridden hospital trust was unfairly ousted from his job, an employment tribunal has ruled

THE former chief executive of a debt-ridden hospital trust was unfairly ousted from his job, an employment tribunal has ruled.

John Watkinson, who worked at the then Bromley Hospitals Trust (BHT) before taking a £170,000 post at Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT), emerged victorious from the hearing findings, published last Friday.

The tribunal found Mr Watkinson was sacked because he was trying to block moves to transfer cancer services out of Cornwall and that he was about to 'whistleblow' the possibility that the plans may be unlawful without a public consultation.

The review which led to his dismissal was triggered by an independent report published in October 2008, which blamed him for saddling BHT with £87million of debts while working as its chief executive between May 2003 and December 2006.

The Bromley report, led by consultant and former NHS manager Michael Taylor, stated that Mr Watkinson had breached the code of accountability for NHS boards as well as the manager's code of conduct. It read: "I hold very serious concerns about Mr Watkinson's approach to financial management and the unprofessional behaviour among certain of his immediate subordinates.

"The trust failed, over a number of years, to heed warnings of its worsening underlying financial position issued by its external auditor.

"Mr Watkinson continued to exude optimism about the trust's financial position until his departure at the end of 2006. The scrutiny of the finance reports by the trust board was inadequate."

Speaking after the ruling last Friday, Mr Watkinson said: "I believe I was suspended and subsequently sacked for doing my duty as a public servant and seeking to comply with the law. This required that the people of Cornwall were properly consulted about plans to move vital cancer services.

"My employment tribunal has lifted the lid on many distasteful aspects of the NHS in the South West. It has revealed a bullying culture and a readiness to ride roughshod over public concerns.

"This judgment shows that my treatment was unfair and restores my good name and reputation."

The amount of compensation is now being considered by the tribunal and is expected to be considerable since Mr Watkinson has not worked since he was suspended in 2008.

An acquaintance of Mr Watkinson said: "John has been vindicated. He should never have been sacked."

A spokesperson for RCHT said: "We are gravely disappointed at this judgement and are actively considering an appeal.

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