Published: 10/03/2005, Volume II5, No. 5946 Page 9

North Cheshire Hospitals trust chief executive Ian Dalton has steadfastly refused to be drawn into the political debate surrounding 'Shouldergate', insisting his main aim was to protect the morale of frontline staff.

'I think the NHS is inherently political. It always has been and always will be, ' he said.

'A service that deals with everything from life to death will always be subject to political commentary.' Mr Dalton said part of his job was to ensure the 'clinical realities' which led to pensioner Margaret Dixon having an operation at the trust cancelled were understood.

'My objective is to protect frontline staff here from getting engaged in a pre-election political debate, ' explained Mr Dalton.

'It is important that they understand the quality of our work and value it and it is our job to explain that to people.'