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AXMINSTER: Mayor thinks NHS is building case against hospital staff by using fake reporter
Tuesday, 02 December 2014
Axminster mayor Jeremy Walden says he might have been targeted by an impostor seeking contact details of local hospital staff.
He suspects that a person who claimed to be a reporter with The Guardian was actually an NHS official trying to build a case against dissenting hospital staff.
Councillor Walden revealed details of the encounter as he addressed Axminster Town Council on November 10th.
He told those attending: “We must all know someone who works at Axminster Hospital and is employed by Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust (NDHT).
“As such they are, under the terms of employment, not allowed to discuss the current proposals with anyone outside the NDHT.
“To do so would render them liable to immediate dismissal for gross misconduct.”
The mayor said he had worked closely with a person, who is a senior clinician with NDHT, on a totally unrelated project, namely that of relaunching the town’s youth club.
He explained: “I have, bearing in mind the above, been most studious to avoid discussing the hospital situation with this individual as I have no desire to put their employment at risk.”
Mr Walden was highly critical of NDHT at a recent public meeting about proposals for the hospital.
Referring to this meeting, he said: “A couple of days later I received a most unusual phone call from a Mr Ian Martin, working for The Guardian.
“He explained that he realised that staff were embargoed from speaking on the record to the press, so could I give him details of what this individual’s [the senior clinician] views were?
“I explained that I could not. I was suspicious. He then asked for this person’s e-mail address.”
Mr Walden did not comply, and said: “I subsequently found out that no one called Ian Martin works for The Guardian.
“I suspect, but have no proof, that I have been subject to Regulation of Investigative Powers Act 2000 (RIPA), which allows public bodies to request phone and e-mail records of individuals with only the permission of a senior police officer.
“This act, intended to thwart terrorism, has been widely abused by public bodies.
“It was used over 8,500 times last year by non-police bodies alone.
“Some people are playing dirty in this campaign, and we must be ever vigilant.”
The Guardian does have a freelance columnist named Ian Martin, although it is unlikely that he would choose to write about NHS issues in Devon.
A Guardian spokesperson said: “If the Mayor of Axminster believes he has been contacted by someone impersonating a Guard- ian journalist he is welcome to raise the matter with us so we can look into it.”
A spokesperson for NDHT didn’t comment directly on the mayor’s theory, but said: “We are aware of the statement given by Councillor Walden to Axminster Town Council.
“We have been, and continue to be, fully committed to working with the local community and our staff affected by the temporary changes to in-patient services at Axminster Hospital.
“We continue to encourage our staff to speak openly about the patient safety reasons for the changes and raise their comments or concerns with us.
“We have also encouraged our staff to participate in and contribute to NEW Devon CCG’s consultation on community services. Equally, we have taken steps to ensure the community feel welcomed to provide their views on the temporary changes, and have held weekly drop-ins.”
Further information about the proposals can be viewed by visiting http://bit.ly/1ty1ay5
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