The chief executive of a trust covering a troubled psychiatric hospital in Carlisle has been suspended.

Alan Place, chief executive of North Lakeland Healthcare trust since 1994, has been told not to return to work until an external review of problems at Garlands Hospital is completed.

A team appointed by Northern and Yorkshire regional office is investigating claims that managers mishandled a series of serious incidents at the hospital, including allegations of assault and failing to deal properly with poorly performing staff.

Trust chair Mary Styth asked the regional office to intervene. This week she said further action had been taken 'in the best interests' of the trust.

In a statement, she said: 'It follows management issues that have come to light as a result of the start of the external review. Our main priority is to ensure that all patients receive top quality care.'

Geoff Bland, trust director of finance and information, has been appointed acting chief executive.

The trust has faced a series of controversial incidents, starting in December last year with the suspension of six nurses from Kielder ward following accusations of unprofessional behaviour towards patients.

In January, Mr Place apologised for the 'rude' and 'uncaring' behaviour of a number of nurses, saying the accusations against four of them were largely proven.

But Unison responded by claiming that nurses had faced violent attacks on Kielder ward.

A month ago, after the regional office review was established, 16 senior doctors at the hospital signed a medical staff committee document making scathing criticism of managers.

The claims included allegations that managers had stretched resources to the limit, imposed decisions without consulting medical staff and failed to provide cover for sick doctors.