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Health chiefs to face probe after dismissal

PUBLISHED: 11:28 20 May 2010 | UPDATED: 10:13 12 August 2010

A STRATEGIC health authority is to be investigated after it was accused of pressuring an NHS Trust into unfairly sacking its chief executive. NHS South West denied the allegations concerning former Bromley Hospitals boss John Watkinson (pictured below),

A STRATEGIC health authority is to be investigated after it was accused of pressuring an NHS Trust into unfairly sacking its chief executive.

NHS South West denied the allegations concerning former Bromley Hospitals boss John Watkinson (pictured below), fired from his £170,000 chief executive role at the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) in 2009.

Mr Watkinson won an employment tribunal on May 7 which found that he had been dismissed unfairly.

On Monday Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said he would look into accusations made by the then Trust acting chairman, John Mills, who said NHS South West had urged him to sack him.

Mr Watkinson was investigated after a report questioning his financial acumen while working at the then Bromley Hospitals Trust (BHT) came to the attention of RCHT which led them to carry out their own review.

The Bromley report, led by consultant and former NHS manager Michael Taylor and published in October 2008 blamed him for crippling BHT with £87million of debts while working there between May 2003 and December 2006.

It stated that he had breached the code of accountability for NHS boards as well as the manager's code of conduct.

A spokesperson for NHS South West said: "Once we were aware of the Taylor report that raised issues about code of conduct and serious concerns that the RCHT should conduct their own independent review.

"The RCHT has said it is dismayed by the findings of the tribunal and we share that view.

"We did not exert pressure on the Trust to dismiss John Watkinson. We were firm that the Trust conducted an independent review, the findings of which concluded that the Trust was headed towards corporate failure.

"It was these conclusions that led the Trust board, acting on independent legal advice, to dismiss John Watkinson.

"We welcome the report announced by the Secretary of State and will of course offer every assistance."

Speaking after his tribunal, Mr Watkinson said: "This 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.

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