The Department of Health has agreed to underwrite the massive legal bill Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust could face if Rose Gibb wins her controversial court case.

The trust’s costs alone are expected to be around£90,000 and should Ms Gibb win her case for breach of contract over her severance deal, it could also be ordered to pay her costs.

The trust would only say: “As the outcome of the case is not yet known and the possibility of any further action is undecided it is premature to assess the full legal costs.”

The DH has also finally released details of the cost of legal advice on the Rose Gibb case - a year after HSJ made a freedom of information request.

It revealed it paid more than£900 for advice from a barrister, before the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust chief executive was told she would not get her pay-off because proper processes had not been followed.

Ms Gibb left the trust days before the publication of a highly critical Healthcare Commission report.

Legal costs

The department was sent a bill for the advice on 28 January 2008. It also called on its in-house legal services team, although it cannot quantify the cost of advice from this team.

HSJ first requested this information on 27 January 2008 but the department refused to release details, saying it would “indicate the extent to which advice had been sought”.

The DH also refused when HSJ appealed.

HSJ took the case to the Information Commissioner’s Office and, following its intervention, the DH agreed to release the cost.

Two other organisations agreed to release similar information at the time of the HSJ’s original request. Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust had paid legal costs of£22,906 by early February 2008 and NHS South East Coast spent£3,876.

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Rose Gibb and the£250k question