Ex-director calls for NHS probe

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A FORMER director of the trust in charge of the county’s hospitals has called for answers as the row over an alleged ‘super gagging order’ for the former chief executive rumbles on.

Phil Scarlett was a non-executive director at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, which runs the Pilgrim Hospital, for two years and resigned amid a row with current chairman Paul Richardson.

He has spoken out after news last week that suggested former chief executive Gary Walker was given a pay-off that cost the trust more than £500,000 and was gagged from talking about it.

Mr Walker had allegedly been sacked for swearing but came to a settlement before a tribunal, where he was expected to air concerns that targets were put before patient safety.

Mr Scarlett said: “In my opinion Gary Walker was sacked because he had the courage to stand up for patient safety before government targets.

“The NHS needs more people like Mr Walker not fewer. His only error in judgment was to stand up to the East Midlands Strategic Health Authority when local hospitals were overfull trying to meet a very significant rise in admissions and because he refused to agree to the targets until new wards were available.”

Mr Scarlett called for answers on who authorised the payment and whether it came out of hospital budgets.

He also believes Mr Richardson should be dismissed for the way the matter has been handled.

A ULHT spokeman said: “The parties involved in the case reached an amicable resolution of the differences between them.

“The comments that have been raised refer to a situation more than three years ago and all organisations involved have moved on.”

They added that patient safety is the ‘top priority’ for the trust and say mortality rates are now at the lowest in recent years.

They added: “Although targets are not the driving factor, we are committed to providing a high quality service and this includes patients receiving treatment in a timely manner and we have halved the numbers of patients waiting longer than 18 weeks for their treatment.”

Sleaford MP Stephen Phillips has written to health minister Andrew Lansley raising concerns about documents he has seen relating to Mr Walker’s cancelled tribunal hearing.

Boston and Skegness MP Mark Simmonds said: “This story has been running for some time. I believe very strongly that the maximum amount of money should be delivered to front line patient care. Patient safety must be paramount.”