The longest-serving chief executive in the NHS has been sacked for gross misconduct.
Sir Leonard Fenwick joined what later became Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in 1977, and has been on extended leave since January.
A disciplinary panel dismissed him after an investigation into claims of bullying and abusive behaviour.
Sir Leonard described it as “an orchestrated witch hunt”, but the trust denied this.
The trust has referred “a number of concerns” arising from the investigation to the NHS counter fraud team, known as NHS Protect.
Sir Leonard said this team had “yet to approach” him.
He said there had been pressure on him to leave and claimed ageism was at play.
“A catalogue of opportunity to undermine” him had been collected because he was “seen as yesterday, rather than tomorrow”, he said.
In response to accusations of bullying, he accepted he had a reputation for “being a little strident”.
“I do not apologise for that; I run a tight ship,” he said.
“I’m not a bully but I can show some measure of intolerance on occasions.
“There are those who may feel a little timid or a little anxious but I do look at outcomes and quality.”
He said it was “absolute nonsense” that he could swear and shout if angry and “certainly not in public setting”.
“In a private team meeting, in my close team, where, yes, I can see things drifting, I may have some strong words – but that’s management,” he said.
An investigation was carried out by an HR specialist outside the trust into “a number of issues raised by different sources”.
This led to a two-day disciplinary hearing, which found “allegations relating to inappropriate behaviour, use of resources and a range of governance issues were proven”.
The trust said the decision to dismiss Sir Leonard “was not taken lightly, but made after very careful, lengthy and detailed consideration of the investigation report and Sir Leonard’s response to the allegations”.
The trust’s latest annual report revealed Sir Leonard was paid between £245,000 and £250,000 a year, but his pension sums were no longer shown as they had been drawn and taken in a previous year.
Earlier this year there were a number of reports claiming Sir Leonard forced the resignations of two consultants caught having sex with junior members of staff on hospital premises, with the suggestion the action alienated some staff.
The trust said it denied any suggestion the extended leave was connected to the handling of any internal disciplinary matter.