'There will be consequences': Jeremy Hunt warns senior NHS executives over Gary Walker gagging order

 

Jeremy Hunt has warned senior NHS executives there will be “consequences” if they have wrongly gagged a former manager from speaking out about concerns over patient safety.

The Health Secretary said he was concerned that Gary Walker, the former chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, appeared to have been “leaned on”.

Mr Walker yesterday broke his silence to allege that he was forced out of his job in 2010 because he put patient safety ahead of Whitehall targets. He has received a lawyer's letter threatening potentially financially crippling legal action for breaching the terms of the package - reported to be worth £500,000 - agreed in settlement of his unfair dismissal claim.

Mr Hunt said he is ready to order NHS bosses to reverse the gagging order if it is found to have breached NHS guidelines.

He has written to Paul Richardson, chairman of the trust, to tell him it is not an acceptable way to behave when an NHS manager raises concerns about patient safety.

“I don't think this is acceptable, I think it is the wrong thing to do,” Mr Hunt told BBC Radio 4's World At One programme.

“I don't want to make a judgment about the truth or otherwise about what Gary Walker said. Obviously there are very, very serious allegations that we need to get to the bottom of but I'm determined to get to the bottom of it.”

The Francis Report into the Mid-Staffordshire scandal called for a ban on the use of gagging orders that prevented concerns being raised about patient safety.

Mr Hunt said he had written to the Trust to find out the contents of the settlement so he could establish if it was in line with NHS guidelines on whistle-blowing.

He added: “If it isn't, of course I will insist that they change it.

“First of all, we must have a culture where people are not afraid to speak out and secondly I was very concerned that it appeared that someone was being leaned on not to speak out and most of all I want to get to the bottom of whether there is any truth in what he was saying.”

Asked if the senior staff at the Trust faced being sacked if there had been mismanagement, he said: “If they have got this wrong there will be consequences, yes, but I want to investigate and find out and get to the bottom of what actually happened before I make a judgment on that.”

Mr Hunt said for too long there had been a culture of celebrating success in the NHS but “not being honest about failure”.

The trust is one of 14 being investigated by health chiefs over high mortality rates in the wake of the public inquiry report into serious failures at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

Mr Walker yesterday claimed that NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson ignored him when he raised concerns about patient safety in 2009. He told the Daily Mail that Sir David was “not interested in patient safety” and called on him to resign.

Mr Walker was sacked in 2010 for gross professional misconduct over alleged swearing at a meeting.

He claims he was forced to quit for refusing to meet Whitehall targets for non-emergency patients when the trust came under pressure because of soaring demand for beds for emergency patients.

He said he accepted a so-called “supergag”, which prevented him even from revealing the existence of the agreement, in order to protect his family.

East Midlands Strategic Health Authority said it “utterly refuted” Mr Walker's claims and acted at all times “in the interest of patients”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Home Care / Support Workers

£7 - £10 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This care provider is looking for Home ...

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Day In a Page

Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate