Anger at ‘super gag’ for whistleblower

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A FORMER chief executive of a Lincolnshire hospital trust received a £500,000 pay-off to “gag” him from speaking out about patient safety concerns.

Paul Walker was sacked from his post in United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust – which is responsible for Pilgrim Hospital, Boston, among others – in 2010 allegedly for swearing at meetings.

But his supporters, including former non-executive director Phil Scarlett, from Spalding, claim his departure had more to do with internal politics which put hitting Government targets above patient safety.

And relevations last week that he received a severance package which included a “super gag” have reignited the anger.

Mr Scarlett said: “It appears that people are preoccupied with political games and meddling.

“It seems anyone who doesn’t ‘toe the party line’ by hitting targets whatever the consequences to patient safety is ‘taken out’ by whatever method can be conjured up.

“An NHS full of non-executive directors who are ‘yes’ men is a very dangerous NHS and trying to get rid of a chief executive who had the temerity to put safety above targets is a disgrace.”

Mr Walker received the pay-out after dropping a claim for unfair dismissal, which was due to be heard in Nottingham in April.

The tribunal judge had already found prima facie evidence that Mr Walker had made a disclosure which was protected under whistle-blowing law when he made clear his concerns over safety.

The trust said all parties had reached an amicable resolution, but documents indicate Mr Walker signed a compromise agreement which included a payment of £320,000, plus legal costs, and a confidentiality clause which prevents him talking about the issues behind his dismissal.

The matter has now prompted the MP for Sleaford and North Hykeham Stephen Phillips to write to health secretary Andrew Lansley calling for all relevant documents to be made public so it can be assessed whether a public inquiry is needed.

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 judgement was to stand up to 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.”