THE Royal Bournemouth Hospital’s chief executive has defended the trust’s actions in the reappointment of its medical director.

The trust has faced criticism from the Department of Health, MPs, Healthwatch Dorset and one of its own former governors in the wake of reappointing Basil Fozard to the role on an increased salary one month after retiring.

The decision made by the trust’s non executive directors meant Mr Fozard was allowed to start drawing from his £1.9million pension pot before returning on a £152,000 annual salary, which was £20,000 more than he was paid previously for the same role.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Daily Echo, chief executive Tony Spotswood dismissed accusations his trust had been arrogant and patronising in the scandal’s aftermath, defended his record as the hospital’s boss and justified his own six-figure salary as "fair".

He said Mr Fozard was now doing more as medical director than when he also saw patients, pointing to the fact his total earning have decreased since giving up the £80,000 - £85,000 a year he received for clinical work.

“From my point of view it’s important that we retained a very experienced medical director and Basil is that,” he said.

“I understand the spectrum of views that this creates. I think the reality is that within the NHS it forms part of the terms and conditions, particularly in hard pressed areas where we have got particular skills that we want to retain.

“And if you lose nursing staff or consultant medical staff, as an example, then often there will be a very clear case for staff coming back and working.”

Mr Spotswood said with difficult-to-recruit specialists, hospitals “need to take account of how you retain some of those really experienced skills and balance that with other ways of recruiting.”

“If you have shortages, for example, in given specialities then often it will take between 12 and 14 years to train a consultant through medical school – so there aren’t immediate or quick fixes," he added.

Following the reappointment the Department of Health said it was “completely unacceptable”, Christchurch MP Chris Chope urged the trust to “come clean”, Bournemouth West MP Conor Burns described the situation as “morally wrong” and Healthwatch Dorset manager Martyn Webster said it “beggars belief”.

Mr Spotswood said he has since met with Mr Burns and Mr Chope to explain the “actual facts”, claiming “both recognise the importance of retaining Basil”.

Asked whether he sympathised with those who questioned the morality of the decision, Mr Spotswood said: “I think we need to distinguish between what the terms and conditions are of working in the NHS – and there are many thousands of staff across the NHS who retire and claim their pension and come back – and Basil’s no different to that.”

The trust’s elected council of governors called an emergency meeting about the reappointment at the start of the month, barring the public from attending.

Lead governor Bob Gee justified holding the talks behind closed doors by comparing it to having “a private conversation with your mum” and claiming the public would find it “difficult to understand”.

This prompted governor Colin Pipe to resign in protest. He criticised the decision to keep the meeting secret and described the trust’s public perception as “secretive arrogant and patronising”.

Asked whether that assessment was a fair one, Mr Spotswood replied: “I respect Colin and his views. I don’t think it’s a fair or accurate reflection of the trust.”

He then refused to comment when asked whether he regarded Mr Gee’s comments to be patronising.

Asked whether, to his knowledge, any other senior figures at the hospital had been made redundant or allowed to retire before drawing their pension and returning, Mr Spotswood said: “Not in terms of senior managers. It does happen in terms of clinical staff throughout and as I say throughout the NHS you will find many thousands, clinical staff in particular, who have claimed their pension and come back.”

He said that he “could not envisage a situation” where senior managers might do the same thing, adding: “But I can envisage situations, and it will happen in every trust in the country, where senior clinical staff retire and then return.”

The Echo asked Mr Spotswood if, given the trust’s handling of the Basil Fozard scandal, its damning CQC report in 2013 and failed merger with Poole Hospital, he was worth his own £190,000 - £195,000 salary.

He replied: “So I think from the point of view if you look at the hospital over a number of years, then the bits that you haven’t mentioned are the fact that we were voted by peer organisations to be the hospital of the year and also the safe hospital of the year the following year.

“So I think it’s important to create a sense of balance.

“I think for all chief executives it is important your salary is benchmarked – and mine is – and the board are content that is a fair salary.”