Mental health boss delays his exit after successor's law degree scandal

Jonathan Warren, chief executive at Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT). Photo: NSFT

Jonathan Warren, chief executive of the NSFT, was due to leave in March - Credit: Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust

The outgoing boss of the region’s mental health trust has delayed his departure after his replacement was caught up in a scandal over his qualifications. 

Mason Fitzgerald, deputy chief executive of the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT), is due to take over as chief executive in April.

But the BBC revealed last week that Mr Fitzgerald had for years wrongly claimed to have a Master of Laws (LLM) degree from the University of Georgia in 2000 when he never graduated. This was confirmed by the university.

The NSFT, as well as Mr Fitzgerald’s previous employer, the East London Foundation Trust, is now investigating. 

Mason Fitzgerald has been appointed new chief executive of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

Mason Fitzgerald is being investigated by the NSFT after claiming to have a Master of Laws degree when he never graduated - Credit: NSFT

Mr Fitzgerald has since changed his LinkedIn profile to state that he never graduated from the university, but up until that point claimed on the networking site, as well as in official NHS documents and on a medical research paper, to have an LLM.

The chair of the NSFT, Marie Gabriel, wrote in an email to staff that the current chief executive, Jonathan Warren, who was due to go on holiday at the end of March before retiring, would now “stay at the trust to provide stability and continuity leadership” while a review took place. 

Mr Fitzgerald worked at the East London Foundation Trust for 14 years, along with Mr Warren and Ms Gabriel, before they all joined the NSFT.

Hellesdon Hospital. Photo: NSFT

The NSFT's Hellesdon hospital site - Credit: NSFT

When his appointment as chief executive was announced in December last year, Ms Gabriel said there had been a “rigorous recruitment process”.

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But some have now questioned how rigorous that process was when it took the BBC to point out that he did not have the law degree he claimed to have.

Roy Livermore, whose mum Doreen died after being attacked in a care home by a mental health patient under the NSFT’s care, has now written to Ann Radmore, East of England regional director for NHS Improvement, about Mr Fitzgerald’s appointment.

“This rigorous process failed to even check the basic qualification claimed by Mr Fitzgerald," Mr Livermore, from Snettisham, wrote.

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“I am writing to ask whether you have any comments or reflections on the recruitment process.”

We have asked the NSFT who is undertaking the review, what exactly it will investigate and how long it will last. They said it would be “inappropriate” to comment while it was ongoing.

Mr Fitzgerald said he was unable to comment when contacted by the BBC. 

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