Letters

Your news story about the suspension and sacking of Les Howell from Guild Community Health Care trust in Preston (page 5, 16 December) contains a statement from a spokesperson for Mr Howell that 'he has never had sight of the Galbraith report so he does not know what charges he needs to defend himself against'.

When the report was delivered to the trust's non-executive directors in December 1998, it was directly sent to Mr Howell for his comments.

He sent a response to the full report to the trust before the non-executive directors decided on any severance package proposals.

Following his response, the non-executive directors decided to start negotiations with Mr Howell and his solicitors on an early retirement package.

Mr Howell's solicitors suggested a suspension while Audrey Wise MP intervened on his behalf.

This interrupted negotiations for two to three weeks. Soon after a meeting between myself and Ms Wise, negotiations with Mr Howell's solicitors resumed, and within weeks an agreement in principle was reached. An early retirement package supported by the trust's external auditors and the regional office was at such an advanced stage that a proposed statement of agreement for Mr Howell was sent by the trust's solicitor for his signature.

Curiously all then went silent and no-one from Mr Howell's side was prepared to talk.

I was then summoned to the regional office to be told that the then health secretary Frank Dobson required the non-executive directors to stand down.

Three refused (including myself). We felt this second political intervention seriously threatened the authority and independence of non-executive directors.

We were subsequently sacked. I suspect the extent of political intervention in the latter stages of this case will never fully be disclosed in public.

Dr Roger Kendle Former non-executive director and acting chair Guild Community Health trust University of Central Lancashire