• Sir Leonard Fenwick faces disciplinary hearing on 23 May
  • Investigation report has been passed to trust chair
  • Process ’could take 18 months to resolve’, says source

The NHS’s longest standing chief executive Sir Leonard Fenwick faces a disciplinary hearing next week, HSJ has learned.

Sir Leonard has been on extended leave from Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust since January, while an investigation into “serious issues” was being carried out.

Sources close to the trust have told HSJ that the investigation has now been completed and the report passed to chairman Kingsley Smith, although it has not been widely circulated.

HSJ understands Sir Leonard now faces a disciplinary hearing at the foundation trust on Tuesday, 23 May. One source said the hearing will be with Mr Smith and another non executive director.

But HSJ understands that the hearing may not be the end of the process. One well placed source suggested it could be as long as 18 months before the issue is resolved.

A spokeswoman for the trust said: “We can confirm that Sir Leonard Fenwick is still on extended leave, but it would be inappropriate for the trust to make any further comment on the investigation at this time.”

HSJ has made attempted to contact Sir Leonard but has not received a response.

Last year the trust was rated “outstanding” by the Care Quality Commission – including in the “well led” domain.

HSJ revealed in March Sir Leonard had been accused of bullying by a former senior employee. But it is not clear which, if any, of the allegations Sir Leonard will face during the hearing nor what his position is.

The accusations came to light in a letter sent to the Mr Smith alleging Sir Leonard had:

  • Engaged in bullying and abusive behaviour towards the employee in public on multiple occasions;
  • Read or “interrogated” staff emails; and
  • Made inappropriate comments concerning a member of staff’s daughter and a senior person in the NHS nationally.

The accusatory letter, seen by HSJ, was also sent to the trust’s human resources director within days of the employee leaving the organisation in January. The FT confirmed Sir Leonard had gone on extended leave on 12 January.

It is still not clear whether the bullying allegations are the reason for Sir Leonard being placed on extend leave, with the trust only saying it was investigating “a number of very serious issues raised by different sources that were brought to the attention of the trust”.

The foundation has not said whether it expects Sir Leonard to return to his post but his duties are being covered by business and development director Louise Robson and medical director Andrew Welch.

There have been reports claiming the reasons for Sir Leonard’s departure does not relate to the allegation of bullying, including the suggestion he was “pushed out” after he uncovered a senior consultant sex ring.

HSJ also revealed that Sir Leonard applied to be considered for the role of trust chair. Mr Smith was due to retire in September last year, but NHS Improvement said it had “very real concerns” about the prospect of Sir Leonard taking over. No appointment was made and Mr Smith’s term was extended.

HSJ also understands that the FT approached NHS Improvement for advice in relation to Sir Leonard around the beginning of the year, but did not ask for it to make a regulatory intervention.

The regulator said its chief executive Jim Mackey – on secondment from neighbouring Northumbria Healthcare Foundation Trust - had “recused himself from any involvement” in the issue.