Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust faces a bill for £1.3m after losing an appeal against its former chief executive John Watkinson.

An employment appeal tribunal ruling last week dismissed Royal Cornwall’s claim that Mr Watkinson was not a whistleblower.

Mr Watkinson was suspended in 2008 and eventually sacked over his intention to reveal the failure to honour the legal requirement for a public consultation over plans to centralise upper gastro-intestinal services at Derriford Hospital in Plymouth.

The trust had not disputed that Mr Watkinson had been unfairly dismissed, but had hoped to see a significant reduction in the payout determined by a previous hearing on the grounds that he was not a whistleblower.

A tribunal last year awarded him a payout of £1.2m, subsequently reduced by £300,000 after an earlier appeal by the trust.

The trust has spent £379,000 on legal costs relating to the case, of which £93,000 related to the appeal process.

The appeal tribunal’s judgement found “clear evidence” that the strategic health authority NHS South West had pressed the trust to sack Mr Watkinson.

It said the trust’s claim, that Mr Watkinson was dismissed due to a “breakdown of trust and confidence”, was not proven and that the SHA had a “clear motive for having the claimant dismissed”.

The tribunal concluded by saying it was “a matter for adverse comment” that the trust failed to call several important witnesses, including the SHA’s chief executive Sir Ian Carruthers, its former chair Sir Michael Pitt and former acting chair John Mills.

Royal Cornwall chair Martin Watts said the trust was “deeply disappointed” by the outcome but now considered the matter closed.

Although an employment tribunal reduced the size of the payout to around £900,000, Mr Watts said the reduction was “little compensation for an unhappy episode in the trust’s history”.

Mr Watts added: “The Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust has had a difficult few years confronting historic debts and implementing the 27 recommendations of the independent Hawker review, which concluded in early 2009 that the trust was heading for corporate failure.

“The trust is now making positive progress. We are delivering our key quality, activity and financial targets, and our staff are working extremely hard to deliver better, safer care for our community.”

Mr Watkinson welcomed the verdict, which he said “fully affirmed” the original tribunal’s decision.

He added: “Without my legal team, advisors, Cornish health campaigners, former RCHT colleagues and local media, I could not have achieved a just outcome.”

The trust has spent £379,000 on legal costs relating to the case, of which £93,000 related to the appeal process.