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Minister Edwin Poots denies victimising Northern Trust boss

Edwin Poots warned MLAs that a failure to adopt welfare reforms would cost lives
Edwin Poots warned MLAs that a failure to adopt welfare reforms would cost lives

Northern Ireland’s Health Minister has denied victimising the chairman of the Northern Trust who claimed he has been “shattered” by his treatment at the hands of Edwin Poots.

Jim Stewart said Mr Poots has put him under pressure to sack trust chief executive Sean Donaghy. Mr Stewart claimed Mr Poots wants him to resign next year and “go quietly”.

Mr Poots cannot sack the chief executive, whereas Mr Stewart can as chair of the trust. But Mr Poots can replace Mr Stewart.

There have been three chief executives of the trust in six years.

Mr Stewart said during a meeting with Department of Health permanent secretary Andrew Mc Cormick last week he was told Mr Poots wants him to go.

Mr Stewart said: “I told Andrew that I would not sack Sean Donaghy and that I intended to finish out my term.”

He added: “I feel I'm being victimised simply because the trust didn't achieve the targets.”

He added that he had been “shattered” by the alleged attempts to oust him.

Mr Poots denied he was trying to force either man out.

And he announced the Department of Health is bringing over a team of NHS staff from England to assess the Northern Trust.

In a statement he said: “The numbers of patients waiting over 12 hours at emergency departments have been unacceptably high throughout the year, and rising lately, and significant numbers of patients are waiting longer than four hours.”

He added: “I acknowledge fully the professionalism and commitment of the trust management and the staff in addressing the challenges. Delivery of safe and effective quality services to all of our patients and clients, across all service areas, must be the over-riding priority. It is for that reason that I have taken the decision to appoint an external expert team.”

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