NHS boss who quit ahead of whistleblowing report still employed by hospital

It has emerged former West Suffolk Hospital CEO Dr Stephen Dunn is still employed by the trust

It has emerged former West Suffolk Hospital CEO Dr Stephen Dunn - who was criticised in the whistleblower report - is employed by the hospital trust until next September - Credit: Archant

A former hospital boss whose leadership team was heavily criticised over how it handled whistleblowing is still being employed by the same trust.

Dr Stephen Dunn stepped down as chief executive of West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust in August, citing "operational, structural and cultural challenges" within the trust, both from the pandemic and also what he described as a "challenging" CQC report. 

This was ahead of the publication of an independent report that found the trust, which runs West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, had acted in a "disproportionate and inappropriate" way by seeking fingerprints and handwriting samples from staff to identify a whistleblower. 

It has emerged Dr Dunn is still being employed by the West Suffolk Hospital trust until next September.

Recent accounts show his salary and pension package was £270,000-£275,000 for the year up to March 2021. This was around a £40,000 increase on the previous year. 

The trust confirmed Dr Dunn is working out the remainder of his employment, which includes his contractual notice period, at the Nuffield Trust health think tank.

Former West Suffolk Hospital CEO Dr Stephen Dunn with trust chair Sheila Childerhouse, who has reigned from her role

Former West Suffolk Hospital CEO Dr Stephen Dunn with trust chair Sheila Childerhouse, who has reigned from her role - Credit: Archant

A spokesperson for the Nuffield Trust said: "Dr Dunn is on a year secondment from West Suffolk to the Nuffield Trust, having previously stepped down from his position as CEO.

"He is not in employment of the Nuffield Trust and is working in a non-managerial capacity for us on specific research projects, including one on infection prevention and control for the new hospital building programme post-pandemic."

The spokesperson confirmed he is not receiving a salary from the Nuffield Trust.

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Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, said while his organisation wouldn't comment on how the trust manages its employment matters, the reaction on social media about Dr Dunn showed it was clearly something people disagreed with.

The report by Christine Outram MBE into the whistleblower handling criticised how a senior clinician, referred to as Dr C, was treated when they tried to raise concerns about a colleague and patient safety.

In one attempt, the report said Dr C emailed trust chair Sheila Childerhouse in confidence setting out their concerns and requesting a meeting, but this was forwarded to the chief executive Dr Dunn. Bosses then pursued a disciplinary investigation into Dr C.

Yesterday, Ms Childerhouse announced she was resigning as chair of the trust, saying she took "personal accountability for the failings identified" and apologised to the staff and families affected.

Interim chief executive of the West Suffolk Hospital trust, Craig Black 

Interim chief executive of the West Suffolk Hospital trust, Craig Black - Credit: WSFT

Following the publication of the report, interim chief executive Craig Black said the trust takes "full responsibility for failings and short comings around the handling of events leading up to and surrounding the whistleblowing, and are truly sorry to the staff and families affected".