The “approach and behaviour” of NHS South West regarding the sacking of a trust chief executive is to be investigated in a review ordered by health secretary Andrew Lansley.

Details of the independent review have been set out in a parliamentary statement a month after an employment tribunal ruled Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust chief executive John Watkinson was unfairly dismissed.

Mr Watkinson was sacked last year after speaking out against a planned reconfiguration of gastro intestinal services in Cornwall. A former interim chair of the trust claimed the board had been under pressure from the strategic health authority to remove Mr Watkinson.

In a written ministerial statement, Mr Lansley today said the review would consider the “approach and behaviour of the NHS South West in relation to Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust.”

In particular, it will address “the dismissal of John Watkinson and, by association, the trust’s position in relation to the provision of upper gastro intestinal services in Cornwall.”

The terms of reference for this review are:

To examine all the SHA’s interactions with the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust in relation the dismissal of John Watkinson and, by association, the trust’s position in relation to the provision of the upper gastro intestinal services in Cornwall.  In particular, to determine:

  • The chronology of events and decisions made in the running up to the dismissal of John Watkinson.
  • What involvement NHS South West had in his dismissal and whether or not this was motivated by the reconfiguration of upper gastro-intestinal services or otherwise.
  • Whether the SHA acted appropriately, proportionately, in keeping with its role and within its statutory responsibilities.

The investigation should not duplicate the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s review of the reconfiguration proposals in the south west, or any tribunal appeals. 

Verita, a specialist company that conducts independent investigations, reviews and inquiries, has been commissioned to undertake the review which is due to be published later this year.

An NHS South West spokeswoman said: “We welcome this review. We will of course offer every assistance and we look forward to the findings.”