Devon

Investigation into Devon health boss after 'nepotism' tribunal

Dr Paula Vasco-Knight
Image caption Dr Paula Vasco-Knight was appointed a CBE in the New Years Honours for services to the NHS

An investigation is to be held into a Devon NHS boss after she was criticised by an industrial tribunal.

The tribunal ruled the South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust hid inquiry findings after chief executive Paula Vasco-Knight was accused of nepotism.

The trust's board said its investigation would look at "complex issues".

Dr Vasco-Knight would be able to respond to concerns raised, it added.

Whistle-blowing

Two whistle-blowers - Clare Sardari, 56, a management development lead, and senior manager Penny Gates, 52 - complained Dr Vasco-Knight had not declared a personal interest when her daughter's boyfriend got a diversity post at the trust in 2012.

An employment tribunal in Exeter dismissed unfair dismissal allegations last week but found that the women suffered by making whistle-blowing allegations.

The tribunal ruled that the trust hid the findings of the subsequent inquiry and misled other parties by contending Dr Vasco-Knight was exonerated.

Tribunal panel judge Nick Roper said Dr Vasco-Knight's evidence was "inconsistent" while trust chairman Peter Hildrew's evidence was "simply incredible and plainly wrong".

Trust chairman Peter Hildrew resigned immediately.

Image caption Penny Gates and Clare Sardari suffered from their whistle-blowing allegations, the tribunal ruled

At an extraordinary meeting of the trust's board, non-executive directors decided to launch a "formal process to investigate concerns raised regarding its chief executive".

Acting trust chairwoman Topsy Murray said: "We must ensure that we have transparency in situations such as these in future."

She added that whistle-blowing policy and processes would also be looked at.

"Our staff must feel able to speak up if they think something may be wrong," she said.

Non-executive board directors would meet with Dr Vasco-Knight "and ensure she has proper opportunity to respond to those concerns", she added.

Dr Vasco-Knight, who was appointed a CBE in the New Years Honours for services to the NHS, has not been available for comment.

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