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NHS trust will face “consequences” if gagging clause breached guidelines, warns health secretary

BMJ 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f1083 (Published 15 February 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;346:f1083
  1. Clare Dyer
  1. 1BMJ

The health secretary for England, Jeremy Hunt, has written to the hospital trust that gagged a former chief executive from speaking out on safety concerns, asking whether the gagging clause breached NHS guidelines on whistleblowing.

Hunt has received a letter from Stephen Dorrell, chairman of the House of Commons Health Committee, asking for confirmation that Gary Walker, former chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust, would not be pursued by lawyers if he spoke to the committee.

Walker signed a compromise agreement containing the clause when he was forced out of his job in February 2010 after his insistence that a “target culture” was threatening the safety of patients.

Walker told BBC Radio 4’s Today news programme that he and the trust’s board had concerns about patient safety and suspended Department of Health waiting time targets for non-urgent treatment in the face of extra demand for emergency cases. But he said that he was told by the East Midlands Strategic Health Authority “to …

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