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New Health Secretary Order Review into Sacking of NHS Whistle-blower

The new Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley has ordered a high-level investigation into why a senior NHS manager was sacked for whistle-blowing. John Watkinson was dismissed from his position as Chief Executive of the Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust in 2009. An employment tribunal last week ruled that Mr Watkinson was clearly to be ‘got rid of’ after he refused to close a local cancer service without proper public consultation. He was legally required to consult patient groups before taking the decision, however his decision to do so was apparently an ‘irritant’ to the Strategic Heath Authority bosses, who wished to move the service to a larger centre in Devon. The decision of the Tribunal states that several witnesses for the Trust refused to answer straightforward questions and key documents were withheld from the tribunal. The panel were highly critical of the fact that senior members of the Strategic Health authority were not called by the Trust to give evidence. The tribunal judgment stated that ‘his dismissal flew in the face of any concept of fairness’.

Mr Watkinson is an experienced Chief Executive, having worked for the NHS for 34 years, and with a good record of improving the performance of Trusts. Iit is disappointing that at a time of limited means, the NHS is choosing to treats its best resources, its people, so badly.

Suzanne is a Partner and is head of the clinical negligence department.

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