The suspended chief executive of North Lakeland Healthcare trust, which last week was the subject of a damning external review report into the abuse of mentally ill patients, has admitted it is unlikely he will return to work in Carlisle.

Alan Place's admission in a local press interview follows the revelation that he told the external review he had not read a 1996 report on allegations that patients were mistreated for three years. He only read the report when further allegations surfaced.

'It would be difficult, undoubtedly, for me to work in Carlisle, ' he said.

'We've got to accept the report as it is.

From the trust's point of view, good progress is being made in terms of its recommendations.'

The First Division Association, which represents Mr Place, is currently holding talks with the trust to try to reach an agreement over his position.

Mr Place said he was 'very proud' of the achievements at North Lakeland and 'very sad that this has happened and damaged the reputation of the trust severely'.

He said that it had been 'an exceptionally difficult time' for him and his family and that, although he didn't know how long it would go on, 'the situation will be resolved one way or another fairly soon'.

However, he said: 'I very much want to be back at work in the health service.'

North Cumbria health authority chair Robin MacLeod told HSJ that Mr Place was still due to face disciplinary proceedings in the near future.

Trust chair Mary Styth was dismissed by health secretary Alan Milburn last week and three senior managers were suspended.

However, Mr MacLeod said: 'I would agree with Mr Place that it would be difficult for him to return to Carlisle.'

Mr MacLeod said the trust and the HA would be discussing a report in mid-April into whether further action needed to be taken in addition to the recommendations of the external review, which were fully accepted by both the trust and the HA.