Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Sunday, 16 May 2010 15:31 UK

Health minister demands report after Watkinson sacking

John Watkinson arriving at employment tribunal
Mr Watkinson was suspended in 2008 by the trust

The Health Secretary has called for an investigation and report into the South West Strategic Health Authority (SHA) after a hospitals boss was sacked.

John Watkinson was unfairly dismissed as Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust chief executive, a tribunal ruled last week.

John Mills, trust acting chairman at the time of the sacking, last week told the BBC the SHA pressured it into the decision. The SHA denied this.

Minister Andrew Lansley said he took the case "very seriously".

The SHA said it welcomed the planned report.

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

'Substantively unfair' dismissal

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.

Mr Watkinson's industrial tribunal concluded that that he was unfairly dismissed. Its judgement stated that the dismissal was "automatically... procedurally and substantively unfair."

John Mills, acting chairman of the trust board at the time of Mr Watkinson's dismissal, said last week that the if 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."

He said: "That was made very clear and that was a threat."

After Mr Mills made his comments, the SHA said that the trust was responsible for making its own decisions.

Mr Lansley said: "I am taking this case very seriously and have asked the chief executive of the NHS to conduct a report into the activities of the SHA in relation to the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust."

A spokeswoman for the SHA said of Mr Lansley's announcement: "We welcome the report and will offer every assistance."

The RCHT said it also welcomed the report.

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