Cornwall hospital trust chair appointed after board members quit

Martin Watts
Image caption Martin Watts said his resignation was not an admission of guilt

A new interim chair has been appointed to the Royal Cornwall Hospital Trust (RCHT) on the same day two members of the board quit.

Angela Ballatti's appointment comes after Sir Roger Boyle and Sue Hall, both non-executive directors, left.

Their resignations come after ex-chairman Martin Watts left last week and his interim replacement, Mike Higgins left this week.

Ms Ballatti will take up the post in early July.

She has 15 years' experience as a chair of NHS boards across the country.

Sir Peter Carr, chairman of the NHS Trust Development Authority, said: "Angela is a hugely able and experienced chair, having held the role at Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust for six years between 2006 and 2012."

'Totally flawed'

Mr Watts, who had been in the job since 2009, said he was forced out of the job after what he was claimed was an "injudicious judgment" by the NHS.

He was replaced by Mr Higgins, who himself quit after less than a week in the job, saying there had been "strong resistance" from the executive team to provide details of the events leading to Mr Watts' resignation.

Sir Roger, an associate non-executive director, said he was leaving the board because "relationships between executive and non-executive functions have now been damaged beyond repair in this particular organisation".

Ms Hall said she was leaving with "extreme sadness" because she could "no longer fulfil the essential oversight and assurance role" as an independently appointed non-executive.

Mr Watts resigned following a report by the NHS Trust Development Authority, which said an independent investigation had upheld a complaint from two members of staff under the trust's dignity at work policy.

He said he had "resigned under pressure" and vowed to "clear my name through the courts and prove that this report is totally flawed".

Hospital bosses added they were looking forward to a court fight with Mr Watts over the allegations of bullying made against him.

The trust said: "We look forward to the opportunity to speak openly, fully and with candour about the events of bullying."

The allegations made against him followed training sessions with staff.

The RCHT said it also "strongly refuted" Mr Higgins' claim of resistance in providing details about Mr Watts' departure.

"Not only was there agreement to provide the information the board requested at its meeting on Monday, it was also noted Mike Higgins had previously been given a full briefing with timelines and actions in his capacity as senior independent director for the trust," it said.

Arrival 'trumpeted'

The resignations from the 12-strong board leaves three out of six non-executive posts empty.

Jayne Zito, from campaign group Healthwatch Cornwall, said: "I would ask people to get in touch if they have any worries about the impact of the resignations or any other comments about the hospital.

"By doing so Healthwatch Cornwall can raise their concerns as appropriate."

Sir Roger joined the trust in December 2011.

BBC South West health correspondent Sally Mountjoy said the leaving of such a "national NHS figure" was a major blow for the hospital.

She said: "His going is a massive loss to the RCHT, because they were trumpeting his arrival loudly."

His leaving the Cornish board follows another notable resignation by him earlier this year.

In April, he stood down as director of the National Institute for Cardiovascular Outcomes Research after he raised concerns about a heart unit at Leeds General Infirmary.

He said he would not want his daughter treated in the Yorkshire hospital.

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