Page last updated at 09:01 GMT, Tuesday, 11 May 2010 10:01 UK

MP calls for inquiry into Cornwall's NHS boss dismissal

Sarah Newton
Sarah Newton MP has demanded an internal inquiry

A Cornish MP has demanded an inquiry into the dismissal of the boss of Royal Cornwall Hospital Trusts (RCHT).

Sarah Newton, MP for Truro and Falmouth, wants the actions surrounding the dismissal of former chief executive John Watkinson in 2008 investigated.

It comes after the RCHT board said it was pressured into making the decision by South West Strategic Health Association (SHA).

The SHA said the RCHT was responsible for making its own decisions.

Ms Newton said: "There are serious questions which need to be answered, and I'll be taking this up with the top level of the NHS to make sure there is a review into the actions of the SHA."

St Ives MP, Andrew George has echoed Ms Newton's call for an inquiry.

'Substantively unfair' dismissal

Mr Watkinson was suspended as chief executive of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) in 2008 after concerns about his management. He was later sacked.

Mr Watkinson said he sacked because he was concerned about the move of some upper gastro-intestinal cancer services and surgery from Truro to Plymouth.

Earlier this month, an industrial tribunal concluded that Mr Watkinson was unfairly dismissed. Its judgement stated that the dismissal was "automatically... procedurally and substantively unfair."

John Mills was acting chairman of the RCHT at the time of Mr Watkinson's dismissal.

He said: "If we, the board, didn't do what the SHA judged was necessary - that is the suspension of John Watkinson - then action would be put in hand to remove the board.

A tribunal found that John Watkinson was unfairly dismissed from his post

"That was made very clear and that was a threat. I look back now and I think we should have resisted the pressure the SHA put us under more resolutely."

In a statement, the Strategic Health Authority said: "Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust Board was clearly responsible for making its own decisions which were also subject to the trust's own independent legal advice.

"The trust's non-executive directors gave evidence during the tribunal and refuted claims they were under external pressure to suspend John Watkinson.

"The NHS in the South West has acted in good faith and on independent professional advice at all times in the handling of these issues."

The employment tribunal ruled that Mr Watkinson had been dismissed unfairly by the RCHT because of a statement he made to the board in August 2008.

In it he said they were under a "duty" to carry out a public consultation into plans to move some cancer services to Devon.

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