The former chief executive of a trust at the centre of an infection control scandal is to get a £75,000 pay-off.

Rose Gibb, who led Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust, will only get her 'legal entitlement' of six months' salary, the trust said yesterday.

Ms Gibb was paid a salary of between£145,000 and£150,000 according to the trust's most recent annual report, making her pay-off around£75,000.

Ms Gibb left her job days before a critical Healthcare Commission report in October that estimated 90 people had died "definitely or probably" as a result of C difficile at the trust's three hospitals over a two-and-a-half year period.

The report outlined a "litany of errors" at the trust. Poor infection control procedures, lack of communication and an emphasis on financial targets were highlighted.

The news that even a partial pay-off will go ahead is an embarrassment for health secretary Alan Johnson, who had tried to stop any payment.

Speaking on Radio 2 yesterday, Mr Johnson said she should get only what she was statutorily entitled to, as any other staff member would.

"If she is entitled to six months' notice she could get that," he said. He said a larger payment had been stopped because it had not been cleared by the strategic health authority or the Treasury.

"People are tired of hearing about large payments of public money to people who have failed in senior positions," he said.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said Mr Johnson could have taken action to stop the payment last September when he received the final version of the Healthcare Commission report. "Because he failed to take action, he and the department were left impotent," he said.

Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb added: "Pay-offs to senior health executives have become obscene. This is not an isolated case. People will not tolerate seeing cutbacks to local health services at the same time as precious NHS funds are used to pay off individuals in circumstances where the Healthcare Commission has issued a damning report."

The Department of Health and NHS South East Coast both issued statements saying they were aware of the trust's move.

The decision to pay Ms Gibb six months' salary came after a week of speculation that she was to get the full amount originally agreed by the trust's remuneration committee, understood to be£150,000.

A trust statement released yesterday afternoon said: "The trust has taken legal advice on the matter of the severance agreement for the former chief executive Rose Gibb and following that advice she will be paid only her legal entitlement of six months' salary. Ms Gibb is being informed of this decision."

Ms Gibb was a member of Managers in Partnership, which had been representing her. MiP chief executive Jon Restell said yesterday that the trust had not informed MiP of any decision and that its position was that Ms Gibb was entitled to the full amount under the initial agreement.

Mr Johnson had said the trust might have acted unlawfully in agreeing the initial pay-off because it had not been through all the proper processes before being agreed. However, HSJ revealed that NHS South East Coast had been sent a copy of the proposed agreement between the trust and Ms Gibb before it was signed. The SHA confirmed it had been seen by its legal adviser but added the agreement had no figures at that point.

The report into the C difficile outbreaks led to an acrimonious row and several former board members - including chairman James Lee - resigning. The trust now has an interim chief executive, Glenn Douglas, and interim chairman and non-executives. It is recruiting new non-executives and will hold its first board meeting since the Healthcare Commission report was released next week.

  • Ms Gibb's partner, Mark Rees, received a£170,000 pay-off when he quit as chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals trust days before her resignation.

Timeline

April 2004-September 2006 Outbreaks of C difficile across the trust's hospitals. 1,170 people are believed to have been affected.

Late July 2007 Talks begin on Rose Gibb's future after the trust board sees a draft copy of the Healthcare Commission report.

5 October 2007 Rose Gibb's resignation is announced.

11 October 2007 The report is published. It is revealed that Kent police and the Health and Safety Executive have been given copies of the report.

15 October 2007 Trust chairman James Lee resigns, saying he has been "hung out to dry" by the health secretary. Alan Johnson announces a review of the decision to pay off Ms Gibb.

1 November 2007 Health secretary Alan Johnson visits Maidstone Hospital and announces the pay-off to Ms Gibb is to be frozen while legal advice is taken on whether it is unlawful.

12 November 2007 Hundreds of people attend a rally in Maidstone. Interim chief executive Glenn Douglas tells them three non-executives - appointed after the outbreaks - have resigned and two others, near the end of their term, are to leave at the end of the month.

17 January 2008 Conservatives claim Rose Gibb is to get her pay-off after all.

24 January 2008 The trust announces she is to get six months' pay, her "legal entitlement".