A former Lincolnshire NHS chief executive who claims he was unfairly dismissed for raising patient safety concerns has written a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt asking for an apology and “comparable” job.
Gary Walker was sacked as CEO of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust in February 2010.
He lodged a claim for unfair dismissal but settled out of court with the NHS in a deal he says was worth £320,000.
The official reason given for his dismissal was swearing at official meetings. However, Walker says in his letter that he was forced out of his job because of concerns he raised about the safety of patients in the county, describing a “culture of threats and intimidation” in the NHS.
He also claims that the NHS spent over £500,000 in legal fees and other costs to cover up his concerns.
His letter argues that his concerns were “vindicated”, citing a report by Sir Bruce Keogh in 2013, which identified a number of failings by the Trust which led to it being put in special measures, a position it remains in to this day.
Walker says: “There is no doubt in my mind, and the evidence from Sir Bruce is clear, that patients died needlessly in Lincolnshire directly as a result of these events. Those deaths and harm were all entirely preventable if the board of directors at the time had been listened to and patient safety put first.”
However, Walker adds that he had been “gagged” by the settlement he says he agreed with the NHS.
When he broke the agreement two years ago, he claims that he was threatened with being sued by the organisation. Eventually, members of the Health Select Committee intervened and a six-month Public Accounts Committee and National Audit Office inquiry was established.
Despite claiming that he has been vindicated, he says that he continues to be “blacklisted by the NHS”.
He adds: “Consequently, I have lost income, pension, career, status, and employment prospects.
“The practical redress you offer will need to be individual to those who raised concerns and the harm they suffered but I would expect that whistleblowers simply want an apology and a job that is comparable to the one they were forced from.”
Responding to the claims made in the letter, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “We have received a letter from Mr Walker and will be looking carefully at the issues raised. We want to make the NHS the safest health system in the world and creating an open and honest culture where patients and staff are listened to is vital to improving care.
“This government has made important changes to protect whistleblowers by outlawing gagging clauses in contracts and introducing new laws in this Parliament to protect those who speak up.”
The department added that they are creating a new independent National Whistleblowing Guardian and are ensuring that every NHS manager and leader is to have training on how to raise concerns and how to treat people who raise concerns.