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Private Eye

June 12, 2010

Dr Phil’s Private Eye Column Issue 1265, June 8, 2010

A Sick Culture

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley may have promised to protect and support whistleblowers but the NHS culture he has inherited is so bullying and defensive that many staff won’t risk raising concerns. Doctors are the most powerful and trusted NHS employees but a recent survey of 384 doctors by the BMA in Scotland found that 40% did not report concerns about standards of care and staff behaviour, for fear of reprisal.  And a study last month in the British Medical Journal found that the content of the whistle-blowing policies of 118 NHS trusts was ‘overly cautious and negative.’

But it’s the experience of whistle-blowers themselves that puts most people off. John Watkinson, the former chief executive of the Royal Cornwall NHS Trust (RCNT) was sacked in 2008 for raising concerns about the lack of proper public consultation in a decision to amalgamate cancer services. (Eyes passim). He is still on the dole and his house is up for sale. Last month, an industrial tribunal unanimously found that he had been unfairly dismissed, concluding that his removal ‘was a travesty of anything approaching basic fairness’. Lansley has ordered an inquiry but RCNT has now appealed the decision, using more

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May 28, 2010

Dr Phil’s Private Eye Column Issue 1264, May 26, 2010

More Cornish Pastings….

Following the Eye’s coverage of the unfair dismissal of Cornish hospital boss John Watkinson (Eye last), health secretary Andrew Lansley has ordered NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson to launch an inquiry.  Of particular interest is whether the South West strategic health authority, headed by Sir Ian Carruthers,  pressurised the Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT) into sacking Watkinson when he blew the whistle on their avoidance of proper public consultation  before moving a cancer service to Plymouth. Whether Sir David is the man to scrutinise Sir Ian is unclear. Sir Ian, himself a former acting NHS chief executive, has long been Sir David’s close friend and mentor.  And Sir Ian chaired the panel that recommended the knighthood for Sir David this year.

South West SHA has mounted a robust defence of Carruthers. In a letter to Health Policy Insight, regional director of public health Dr Gabriel Scally wrote: ‘ The claim for unfair dismissal was made not against Sir Ian Carruthers or the South West Strategic Health Authority but against RCHT, which made its own decisions acting on independent legal advice.‘ This is at odds with the recollection of John Mills, RCHT Chair at the time of

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May 16, 2010

Independent on Sunday: ‘Top-level review ordered into sacking of whistle-blower
Filed under: Private Eye — Tags: , , , — Dr. Phil @ 11:45 am

Top-level review ordered into sacking of whistle-blower
New Health Secretary promised before election to give better protection to concerned NHS staff ‘moles’

By Nina Lakhani
Sunday, 16 May 2010

The new Secretary of State for Health, Andrew Lansley, has ordered an unprecedented high-level investigation into why a senior NHS manager was sacked for whistle-blowing.

John Watkinson was dismissed from his post as chief executive by the Royal Cornwall Hospital NHS Trust (RCHT) in 2009 following pressure from the Strategic Health Authority (SHA), which oversees the NHS in the South-west.
An employment tribunal ruled last week that the Mr Watkinson was clearly “to be got rid of” after he refused to close a local cancer service without proper public consultation. His resolve to fulfil the legal obligation to consult patient groups was seen as an “irritant” to SHA bosses, determined to move the upper gastro-intestinal cancer service to a larger centre in Devon.

The tribunal panel was highly critical of the fact the SHA chief executive, Sir Ian Carruthers, and chairman, Sir Michael Pitt, were not called by the Trust to give evidence. Several witnesses refused to answer straightforward questions and key documents were also

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May 15, 2010

Update on John Watkinson’s unfair dimissal from a source close to JW
Filed under: Private Eye — Dr. Phil @ 5:21 pm

The Independent on Sunday has got a bee in its bonnet on whistle-blowing and has run a number of stories on various individuals over recent months. They are running a piece tomorrow on JW. The reporter is Nina Lakhani, she’s done the other whistle-blowing stories and has told JW that having read his judgment it is the most clear cut finding on whistle-blowing that she has seen.

She approached Lansley for comment and got a statement saying he has ordered Nicholson to conduct an inquiry. (This is somewhat amusing when you think that Carruthers is Nicholson’s mentor – tho’ maybe Lansley is being really clever and passing the poisoned chalice to Nicholson: it’s said that Lansley wants rid of Nicholson and the culture he has engendered.)

She also approached both RCHT and the SHA with one question each. She asked the former for the real reason why JW was sacked (since the tribunal clearly didn’t believe what they had put forward during the 13 days of hearing) and asked the latter why, if RCHT was so capable of making its own decisions as the SHA continually asserts, the SHA had found it necessary to bully RCHT into suspending JW

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May 14, 2010

Lots of reaction from latest Private Eye column….
Filed under: Private Eye — Tags: , , , — Dr. Phil @ 12:44 pm

Here’s a post from Andy Cowper from Health Policy Insight ( in response to Private Eye, and responses from Dr Gabriel Scally, Regional Director of Public Health For The South West in defence of Carruthers, and a further response to that from a former NHS manager and colleague of John Watkinson. Any other responses from either side welcome. Please post below.

Editor’s blog Wednesday 12 May 2010: Employment Tribunal trashes Sir Ian Carruthers’ treatment of Royal Cornwall CE
Publish Date/Time:
05/12/2010 – 12:34

The excellent Dr Phil Hammond is well-known for his nom-de-plume as Private Eye’s MD.
His latest Eye column, reproduced here on his website, looks at the Employment Tribunal’s ruling over the suspension and subsequent dismissal of Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust chief executive John Watkinson in 2008.
The RCHT disciplinary action followed Watkinson’s protesting against the SHA’s plans involving a lack of (legally-required) consultation over changes to gastro-intestinal services in the region.
Phil has kindly hosted the written verdicton his site.

It is comprehensive in its condemnation of RCHT’s actions towards Watkinson, and pins the blame for their proceedings against him firmly on Sir Ian Carruthers and the SHA, NHS South-West.

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