Hospital trust challenges chairman's sacking

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A flagship foundation hospital trust which slid into a reported £4 million spending deficit in just three months was today challenging the regulator's decision to fire its chairman.

A flagship foundation hospital trust which slid into a reported £4 million spending deficit in just three months was today challenging the regulator's decision to fire its chairman.

John Ryan was sacked yesterday from his job as head of Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust amid forecasts of a deficit of more than £11 million.

Monitor, the industry regulator, said in a statement on its website that it had removed Mr Ryan and appointed Peter Garland, a former regional director for the NHS, as interim chairman of the Trust.

But last night the Trust board passed a vote of confidence in Mr Ryan and resolved to write to Monitor to demand an explanation.

A Trust spokesman said the board met for an hour and a half before passing the two resolutions.

He said: "The first one was a vote of confidence in John Ryan.

"The second was that we voted to write to the chairman of Monitor asking him to come to Bradford and explain the reason for the action they've taken."

Monitor's statement yesterday said: "The decision to remove the existing chairman and make an interim appointment follows extensive discussions between Monitor and the board of Bradford since August 2004, and a report by external professional advisers Alvarez and Marsal into the financial position at Bradford."

Monitor said it took particular account of a forecasted deficit of £11.3 million, compared with the Trust's original forecast of a £2.4 million surplus.

Monitor also said the Trust "did not respond appropriately" to serious financial concerns it identified in April 2004.

The regulator said the Trust's recovery plan did not provide a "credible or adequate response" to its financial difficulties and lacked strategic vision and coherence.

It was announced in October that American financial advisers had been called in to the Trust to draw up an emergency financial plan, just six months after it was awarded foundation status.

Health Secretary John Reid said last week that there were no grounds for him to intervene in the hospital.

Giving evidence to the Commons Health Committee, Dr Reid insisted there was no "imminent" threat to patient services as a result of the hospital's financial problems and, therefore, there was no reason for him to become involved.

However, he said he would be closely watching the situation in the Trust.

He denied that the difficulties in Bradford represented a failure of the foundation hospital system, saying that it had actually resulted in the discovery of a problem which could have remained undetected for years.

Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: "This is yet more evidence that the Government's half-hearted experiment in freeing up the NHS is not working.

"The Government's foundation plans have failed to deliver the freedom and flexibility needed to let NHS staff innovate and get on with the job of treating patients."

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