Review of hospital boss Watkinson's sacking ordered

Image caption,
Mr Watkinson was sacked in 2009

The health secretary has commissioned an inquiry into the dismissal of Cornish hospitals chief John Watkinson.

Mr Watkinson was suspended from the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) in 2008 after concerns about his management. He was sacked in 2009.

An industrial tribunal ruled in May his sacking was "substantively unfair".

Andrew Lansley said he had asked the chief executive of the NHS in England to initiate the review. Its findings will be published later in the year.

The tribunal found that Mr Watkinson was sacked because he stood in the way of plans to transfer some upper gastro-intestinal (GI) cancer services out of Cornwall to Plymouth in Devon.

Health authority behaviour

In a written statement to MPs, Mr Lansley said the tribunal found that Mr Watkinson was unfairly dismissed because he made a "protected disclosure" covered by the Public Interest Disclosure Act which was linked to the changes in upper GI services.

The panel also found that the RCHT sacked Mr Watkinson "as a result of pressure" from the South West Strategic Health Authority (SHA), also known as NHS South West, Mr Lansley said.

He said: "I have asked Sir David Nicholson, chief executive of the NHS in England, to initiate a review into the approach and behaviour of the NHS South West in relation to Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust, in particular to the dismissal of John Watkinson and, by association, the trust's position in relation to the provision of upper GI services in Cornwall."

The government has commissioned Veritas, a company that conducts independent investigations, to undertake the review.

Chronology of events

It is to determine the "chronology of events and decisions" made in the run-up to Mr Watkinson's dismissal.

It should also find out what involvement NHS South West had in his dismissal and whether or not this was motivated by the reconfiguration of upper GI services, Mr Lansley said.

The minister first called for an investigation into the SHA after Mr Watkinson's tribunal verdict.

At that time, the SHA said it welcomed the report and would offer every assistance.

The RCHT is planning an appeal against the tribunal's decision. It said it would not comment further.

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