Lincolnshire NHS trust denies gagging order

Gary Walker Former chief executive Gary Walker claimed he was put under pressure to meet non-emergency targets

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An NHS trust has written to staff to insist it does not "suppress debate about patient safety".

Last week the United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust was accused by a former chief executive of using a gagging order to halt his concerns about care.

The claims lead Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to brand health bosses' actions as unacceptable.

In an internal memo the trust has said the order related to an employment tribunal only.

Gary Walker was sacked as chief executive in 2010 for for gross professional misconduct for allegedly swearing in a meeting.

'Standard terms'

Last week he said that as part of a £500,000 settlement, he had to sign an agreement which prevented him talking about a row over non-emergency waiting list targets.

Mr Walker claimed the dispute over whether to divert resources into emergency cases was the real reason for his dismissal.

In the letter to staff, the trust's current chief executive, Jane Lewington, said it had written to Mr Hunt.

"We are explaining the trust's position," it said, "and making it clear that we do not suppress debate about patient safety.

"On the contrary, we actively encourage any members of staff to raise any concerns and these will be taken seriously."

She reiterated the trust's position that the agreement with Mr Walker only "contained standard confidentiality terms relating to the resolution of the employment tribunal dispute".

The trust said a letter sent to Mr Walker by NHS solicitors last week, warning him against making any detrimental statements regarding the trust, applied to tribunal matters only.

The Department of Health said the letter sent to Mr Hunt was part of a series of assurances they had requested from the trust.

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