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Sir Leonard Fenwick sacked

It is the end of an era in the North East as the longest serving chief executive in the NHS leaves under the cloud of being sacked for gross misconduct.

Sir Leonard Fenwick has worked in the NHS since 1965, becoming chief executive of the Freeman Group of Hospitals Trust in 1977 and then Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust when it was founded in 2006.

But today the FT confirmed Sir Leonard has been dismissed after a disciplinary panel found “allegations relating to inappropriate behaviour, use of resources and a range of governance issues were proven”.

It has been a saga, with Sir Leonard going on extended leave in January.

The disciplinary process took three months, and HSJ pushed for answers, only for the trust to eventually release a statement saying an independent investigation into “serious issues” was being undertaken by an HR specialist.

The NHS’s “King of the North” has contested his innocence all the way – while pulling in his £250,000 annual salary for eight months – and appealed the original disciplinary panel’s decision. But the appeal panel upheld the decision to dismiss him.

While the trust has not expanded on what gross misconduct Sir Leonard committed, HSJ revealed in March he had been accused of bullying by a former senior employee.

But his dismissal might not be the end of the story.

The trust has said it was also required to report concerns to NHS Protect, the counter fraud and security management service.

If NHS Protect is investigating – which it has neither confirmed nor denied – this could have serious repercussions, potentially even criminal proceedings, if it believes the law has been broken.

Long term relationship

Struggling Colchester Hospital University Foundation Trust and neighbouring Ipswich Hospital Trust are likely to approve plans to merge next week.

The two boards, already led by a joint chief executive, will discuss an outline business case, which “recommends forming a single combined organisation with fully integrated clinical services”, next Thursday.

A final decision would be taken by both boards “around June 2018”. The merger would also require approval from NHS Improvement and the Competition and Markets Authority. Local clinical commissioning groups have backed the plans.

The move follows regulators threatening special measures trust Colchester with the failure regime, and potentially liquidation, unless it established a “long term partnership” with Ipswich, in April 2016.

Partnering the two trusts “is the only way of securing services for patients long into the future” because of Colchester’s unsafe services, regulators said. The Care Quality Commission said it had “no confidence” in Colchester’s incumbent board. The CQC originally recommended that the trust be put in special measures in 2013.