The chief executive of the Royal Cornwall Hospitals trust John Watkinson has been suspended.

The suspension followed a critical review of his performance as chief executive at Bromley Hospitals trust, which concluded that he had breached the managers' code of conduct.

Finance director Joe Teape has been named acting chief executive.

The independent review investigated how Bromley Hospitals built up more than£87m of debt - and raised serious concerns about Mr Watkinson's financial management.

Internal review

It prompted Royal Cornwall Hospitals trust and NHS South West to launch their own review to "clarify whether the Royal Cornwall Hospital's financial management and governance arrangements have been and remain appropriate".

The review will be carried out by Ruth Hawker, former chair of the Royal Devon and Exeter foundation trust, human resources consultant David Fielding, development consultancy director Neil Goodwin and NHS North East director of finance and communications David Stout. It will report by 28 November.

Acting chair John Mills said the decision to suspend Mr Watkinson was "solely to facilitate the independent review being carried out effectively".

He said: "It implies no negative judgement whatsoever on Mr Watkinson's performance at RCHT."

NHS South West said: "This is a neutral act... fully in line with NHS procedures, aimed at both protecting individuals and processes while formal investigations take place."

Political victim

Mr Watkinson has won public support from campaigners and a group of senior medical staff at the Royal Cornwall, who link the controversy to plans to centralise gastrointestinal cancer services in the region.

A statement from a group of consultants said he was the victim of an "orchestrated attack" by the strategic health authority and Cornwall & Isles of Scilly primary care trust.

The claims have been strongly rejected. SHA chair Sir Mike Pitt said: "In any organisation, when serious failings are highlighted, it is the duty of those charged with overseeing services to make sure they are properly investigated."