• George Thomson paid £300,000 by Northern Devon Healthcare Trust
  • Dr Thomson left trust after external investigation into his conduct
  • He was unable to fully perform his work duties during period to which pay related

A former medical director who allegedly bullied senior clinicians was paid £300,000 in 2018-19, despite an external investigation into his conduct preventing him from fully carrying out his duties.

George Thomson, who worked for Northern Devon Healthcare Trust, received his full salary and an extra payment for leaving the organisation in December 2018, shortly after the investigation was completed, the trust’s annual accounts have revealed.

In January 2018, HSJ reported that consultants at the trust had issued a vote of no confidence in relation to Professor Thomson’s bid to become chief executive

Among their concerns were allegations of bullying and intimidating behaviour towards senior clinicians, as well as safety concerns in the maternity department.

The vote came a year after the death of diabetes consultant Alastair Watt, with whom Professor Thomson was described as having a “toxic relationship” at an inquest in February 2019.

In March 2018, a trust-commissioned external investigation – which cost £23,000 – into his conduct began. At the time, the trust said he remained an employee of the organisation but some of his duties were being covered by other members of staff.

However, sources told HSJ Professor Thomson had not been seen on-site at the trust since January 2018. The trust’s deputy medical director provided cover for him, as the medical director role is a statutory trust board position. 

Four months after the investigation began, the trust appointed Adrian Harris as interim medical director. He held the role alongside his existing job as medical director of neighbouring Royal Devon and Exeter Foundation Trust, which began sharing its leadership team with the trust that summer.

In December 2018, the trust’s chief executive Suzanne Tracey announced Professor Thomson had left the organisation following the conclusion of the investigation. She said he had left to “pursue other opportunities”.

According to the trust’s annual report, Professor Thomson received a salary of £295,000 - £300,000 for 2018-19, but this figure also includes a “contractual payment in lieu of notice within the term of employment contract”.

Additionally, he received £32,500 - £35,000 in pension-related benefits from the trust.

A spokeswoman for the trust said it could not break down how much of the amount paid to Mr Thomson in 2018-19 was his salary and the contractual payment due to “legal reasons”.

She added Professor Thomson was contractually entitled to receive a salary as he was employed during 2018-19. 

The trust has not published the findings of the investigation into Professor Thomson. Asked why, the spokeswoman said: “This report contains personal data collected under a duty of confidence and therefore disclosure would breach the confidentiality of the subject and individuals involved.

“The report details numerous witnesses as well as George Thomson and includes multiple appendices (including the full witness statements) and confidential documents. It is likely that the trust would be in breach of the first principle (lawfullness, fairness and transparency) of the Data Protection Act 2018, specifically it would be unfair to disclose this report. 

“Information relating to any internal investigation of an individual carries a strong expectation of privacy and as a trust we would never disclose reports of this nature.”

His salary in 2017-18 was £225,000 - £230,000. Professor Thomson’s LinkedIn page lists him as a self-employed consultant since December 2018.

HSJ has approached Professor Thomson for comment.

HSJ previously reported how 50 senior clinicians and consultants at Rotherham FT had raised concerns about Professor Thomson’s “attitude and behaviour” during his employment there in 2013.