Tyne & Wear

Concerns over leadership of trust's Sir Leonard Fenwick

Sir Leonard Fenwick Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir Leonard Fenwick has been on extended leave since January

Senior doctors have expressed concerns about the leadership of the chief executive of Newcastle's hospitals, the BBC has learned.

Sir Leonard Fenwick is on extended leave and there is an investigation into a number of "very serious issues".

They include an allegation of bullying and abusive behaviour, the BBC understands.

Sir Leonard is barred from speaking but sources close to him say he categorically denies the allegations.

Sir Leonard was placed on extended leave in January. He is Britain's longest-serving medical director, having first been appointed a hospital chief executive in 1977, and runs the Trust responsible for Newcastle's Freeman Hospital and Royal Victoria Infirmary.

Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which was rated as outstanding by the Care Quality Commission last year, has so far refused to confirm the full reasons for the leave.

'Blame-free' culture

The BBC understands the trust is investigating allegations of bullying and abusive behaviour by Sir Leonard towards a former trust director.

BBC Inside Out has seen the minutes of a forum of clinical directors, who lead the hospitals' specialists department and meet six times a year.

Key points to emerge include:

  • They felt "unwilling or unable" to speak out for fear of retribution and intimidation
  • They called for a "blame free" culture
  • In the future "it was imperative that there was greater engagement with other trusts in the region"
  • They asked for a clear statement from Sir Leonard that he would engage fully with new NHS developments, including the Sustainability and Transformation Plans
Image caption The Trust, which runs hospitals in Newcastle, was rated outstanding last year

It is not known how representative their views are of the whole staff.

In a statement earlier this month, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust confirmed the extended leave "to allow an independent investigation to be carried out into a number of very serious issues raised by different sources".

The investigation is being carried out by an independent HR specialist.

'Strong independent style'

Sources close to Sir Leonard say they think he is paying the price for a tough management approach and standing up to doctors in the past.

Newcastle East Labour MP Nick Brown said: "Sir Len is his own man and he does have a strong independent style. If he thinks what he is being asked to by whichever government is wrong - he'll say so."

There have been a number of reports claiming Sir Leonard forced the resignations of two consultants caught having sex with junior members of staff on hospital premises, with the suggestion the action alienated some staff.

The trust said it refuted any suggestion the extended leave was connected to the handling of any internal disciplinary matter. It said the extended leave was an "entirely neutral act".

You can watch the full report on Inside Out, North East & Cumbria on Monday 20 March on at 19:30 GMT on BBC One.

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