Golden gag means fired NHS boss can’t tell truth

Have your say

A SACKED NHS boss who helped breathe new life into Grantham Hospital has settled a long-running and bitter employment tribunal out of court – just one day before it was due to start.

As a result of the costly agreement, Gary Walker – former Chief Executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust – cannot speak to anyone, ever, about the case.

In short, the trust claims it fired the well-respected leader for swearing. He previously told the Journal that it was because he’d dared to ‘blow the whistle’ on how unreasonable Government targets were putting the lives of patients around Lincolnshire – and across the country – in grave danger.

Following his departure on February 3, 2010, he immediately sued for unfair dismissal.

The abandoned tribunal would have aired – under oath – precisely what his concerns were and who his grievances were against.

The tribunal would also have heard from several witnesses. The Journal understands they too have effectively been gagged.

When the Journal spoke to Mr Walker this week, through his ‘golden gag’ he said simply: “I can confirm that we have reached an agreement, and that is all I’ll say.”

He refused to make any other comments about the tribunal, which was scheduled to last for three weeks.

A spokesman for the hospitals trust confirmed the vow of silence was agreed. The trust said: “The parties reached an amicable resolution of the differences between them and agreed not to comment further.”

The Journal was told that any other questions would have to be submitted as a Freedom of Information request.

Mr Walker was appointed in 2006 when the trust had a deficit of £13.6m and was failing. Under Mr Walker the trust broke even in 2007/8.

Before his eventual dismissal, he had been off sick for seven months.

At the time he said: “I am devastated by the trust’s decision. I intend to appeal and cannot therefore comment further although I understand they have started recruiting a replacement chief executive.

“As the disciplinary process has not yet completed, this move is clearly prejudicial to me and a further example of their determination to remove me from my post.”

Mr Walker – who is said to be in the final stages of re-training to be a barrister – immediately launched his appeal against the trust’s decision, which led to the employment tribunal.

At the start of November, the Care Quality Commission reported that more needs to be done by the trust to protect patients from the risk of poor care after an investigation into Boston’s Pilgrim Hospital.

The Care Quality Commission regional director in the East and West Midlands, Andrea Gordon, said: “United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust is making improvements, however we are not satisfied yet that enough has been done to ensure the trust is compliant with the essential standards of quality and safety.

“The trust had been slow to investigate incidents and follow up complaints from patients and their families. This is a cause of real concern for Care Quality Commission. It is important for any trust to act swiftly regarding these matters and make sure that, where necessary, it learns quickly and resolves issues.

“The investigation also highlighted staffing issues and the use of locums, which had been costly for the trust. There have also been a number of changes in leadership across the trust and it needs to bring about stability in order to help cement any changes made.

“It is not just the trust that needs to effect change, the Primary Care Trust and Strategic Health Authority also need to be more robust in their monitoring.”