• Sheilah Finnegan and Sharon Partington were “excluded” in August 2015, pending an investigation into allegations made by a whistleblower.
  • Along with chief executive Jonathan Parry, they were due to face a disciplinary panel.
  • Trust has refused to explain the nature of the allegations.

Two senior officers have left Southport and Ormskirk Hospital Trust ahead of disciplinary hearings over their conduct.

Sheilah Finnegan, chief operating officer, and Sharon Partington, director of human resources, were “excluded” in August 2015, pending an investigation into allegations made by a whistleblower.

Last month, the trust said the two officers, along with chief executive Jonathan Parry, had “a case to answer” following a year-long investigation, and would each face disciplinary hearings.

The trust has refused to explain the nature of the allegations, other than saying they are unrelated to patient safety.

The trust has now announced that Ms Partington has now resigned, and Ms Finnegan retired in late July. It said their cases will “still be going to the next stage of the disciplinary process in accordance with trust HR policies”.

According to the trust’s annual report, the officers all appear to have received full pay since being excluded. The trust’s deputy director of performance, Richard McCarthy, who was also excluded last year, has been cleared of all allegations and returned to work, the announcement on Friday said.

Meanwhile, the trust has launched a “cultural review” into the organisation, led by diversity expert Professor Surinder Sharma, of the University of Leicester.

The trust has stressed that this review is not linked to the allegations or action against the officers.

Trust chief executive Iain McInnes said in a statement: “The review was commissioned on the recommendation of the Care Quality Commission – not as a consequence of the ongoing disciplinary proceedings against senior members of staff. It had been suggested to the CQC that there may be some feeling of unfair treatment felt among our BME staff.

“The decision was also made in light of a need to enhance our approach to equality and diversity generally across the trust in order to ensure best practice. So we see this review as being about our entire workforce and it will reflect on issues of gender, sexuality and disability as well as ethnicity.”

The CQC’s inspection report for the trust, published in May 2015, noted that 30 consultants had raised concerns about “the presence of a culture of bullying and harassment”. However, it also noted several measures which were being taken to address the issues.

The review was referenced in the trust’s September board reports, which said: “The review was commissioned following a recommendation received from the Care Quality Commission.

“It had been suggested that there may be some feeling of unfair treatment felt amongst the black and minority ethnic group of staff and there have also been previous concerns over an alleged bullying environment in different parts of the trust.

“It was therefore agreed to undertake a full cultural review of the organisation to give an independent perspective and hopefully to provide a roadmap which senior management can adopt to transform the culture on the basis of best practice elsewhere.”