Stephen Dorrell: Hunt should 'improve culture' of NHS

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Gary Walker, the former chief executive of an NHS Trust in Lincolnshire, was sacked after a dispute about patient safety.

As part of his settlement when he left the trust, Mr Walker signed a gagging clause which prohibited him from speaking to anyone about his concerns over safety, and many other aspects of his time in charge.

He decided to break that gagging clause by speaking to Radio 4's Today programme, and on Thursday 14 February, as a consequence, the BBC reported that he had received a letter from the Trust threatening to claw back the money that was paid to him when he left - up to half a million pounds.

On Thursday Stephen Dorrell, chairman of the Commons Health Select Committee, told the Today programme that he was reluctant to intervene in what he saw as a contractual dispute between Gary Walker and his former bosses.

Mr Dorrell, who has now written a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, explained to Today presenter James Naughtie that the committee has had "clear evidence" that the Department of Health is not in favour of these gagging clauses.

"The key question for the secretary of state now, is whether he is prepared to precipitate the kind of culture change which Robert Francis [in the Mid Staffordshire report] saw as core to improving the culture within the National Heath Service," he added.

First broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday 15 February 2013.

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