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NHS whistleblower Gary Walker faced bullying culture

Former NHS trust executive Gary Walker claimed he was put under pressure to meet non emergency targets.NHS whistleblower Gary Walker faced bullying cultureThe former boss of a hospital which is being investigated over high death rates has told MPs there was a culture of “sheer bullying” in the NHS.

Gary Walker, former United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust chief, said he was sacked because of a row over an 18-week non emergency waiting list target.

He said he was threatened by the East Midlands Strategic Health Authority when he flagged up capacity problems.

The NHS said he was sacked for allegedly swearing in a meeting and denied Mr Walker’s claims he was “gagged” by a compromise agreement for raising concerns about patient safety.

Gary Walker described in vivid detail the pressures facing Lincolnshire’s hospitals back in 2008 and 2009.

Mr Walker said he personally witnessed hospital trolleys lined up together in an assessment ward – such was the demand for beds.

He claimed that when he tried to raise concerns he was “bullied”, threatened with his position and told that “everyone else is coping”.

Speaking for the first time in public, Mr Walker told the health select committee staff had been forced to cancel 700 operations when hospitals were full of emergency cases in 2009.

He said he had to put Lincoln County Hospital on an emergency footing, or red alert, but felt pressurised by health executives.

He said the response from the health authority was “this is your problem – you need to meet the targets whatever the demand”.

“It is a very dangerous thing to be trying to push through targets when hospitals are dangerously overfull,” he said.

Mr Walker told the committee: “I got a phone call from Dame Barbara Hakin former chief executive of the East Midlands Strategic Health Authority saying ‘we’re about to approve £11 million of funding for your trust and that’s going to be very difficult while you’re on red alert’.

“I don’t personally see the link between £11 million of largely capital funding to build facilities and being on red alert, the two are separate.

“One is about operationally running a hospital safely and the other one is about longer term plans.”

Mr Walker said he prepared a presentation for the Department of Health about problems with hitting targets but was ordered to remove any reference to him calling for a capacity review.

Mr Walker, who was sacked in 2010 for “gross professional misconduct” over alleged swearing at a meeting, said he was forced to quit after refusing to meet Whitehall targets for non-emergency patients and was gagged from speaking out as part of a settlement deal.

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