HEALTH watchdogs have vowed to 'get underneath the skin’ of the leadership at a debt-ridden hospital following a string of accusations from top consultants.

Monitor has launched an investigation after receiving a letter sent by consultants at Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust outlining 'a number of issues’.

A national newspaper, which was leaked a copy of the letter, reported claims a 'race row’ had erupted at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough and the letter, signed by 24 ethnic minority consultants, contains allegations of 'bullying, harassment and racial discrimination’.

A Monitor spokesman said the letter 'covers a number of issues at the trust’, but would not confirm the nature of the allegations.

He added: “We can confirm that Monitor has received a letter from consultants at the Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and that we are in the process of investigating the issues raised.” The letter was sent only weeks after a probe, by medical investigations firm InPractice, into a 14-year feud between doctors at the trust uncovered 48 cases of possible harm to patients went unchecked.

The letter, is reported to say that patients’ lives are being lost because errors made by white doctors are being covered up, while those made by ethnic minority doctors are highlighted.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) was also sent the letter, and said all information will be taken into account when inspecting the hospital at the start of next year in its second wave of acute hospital inspections, after Wexham Park was identified as 'high risk’ in the last wave of inspections.

A CQC spokesman said: “The new model of inspection for NHS trusts makes greater use of service user voice and professional expertise to really get underneath the skin of the leadership and culture of an organisation. All the information that CQC holds about the trust, including the InPractice report, will be considered as part of this inspection process.” The hospital employs 140 consultants and the signatures on the letter allegedly include leading consultants from several departments at the hospital, with the majority from Indian or Pakistani backgrounds, and a small number with Middle East or Eastern European roots.

The Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has been in huge debt, totalling around £13.5m last year. A damning CQC report on Wexham Park Hospital, published in July, found the hospital was 'failing to protect the welfare of patients’.

The trust refused to comment.