Rose Gibb has described in court how she was “hounded, victimised and demonised” by the local health service and health secretary Alan Johnson.
She said she was given no support by the NHS in dealing with the “massive gang of media” camped outside her door after a Healthcare Commission report about outbreaks of C difficile that led to at least 90 patients’ deaths.
She broke down and cried in the witness box yesterday as she described the meeting where she was told she had to leave Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust.
Ms Gibb, who had wanted to stay on as chief executive despite the impending critical Healthcare Commission report, was told she had 96 hours to agree terms.
“I was stressed, I was crying, this was a fait accompli, they were authorised to do this and I had to get a lawyer,” she said, recalling the meeting with the chair and deputy chair on 1 October 2007.
“I left the meeting, sat down in the office, calmed myself and said goodbye,” she said.
After leaving, she phoned her husband [Mark Rees, former chief executive of Barking, Havering and Redbridge Hospitals trust] and he advised her to make notes of the meeting.
She told the court that she was assured approvals had been given for a pay-off. She said the department was mentioned at the time, which she understood to be the Department of Health. In fact, approval had not been obtained from the DH.
Her severance payment was subsequently halted by Department of Health director general of finance, performance and operations David Flory.
Ms Gibb was in court yesterday challenging the trust’s refusal to pay her the full amount of her severance agreement. She is seeking£75,427 in lieu of notice,£174,573 as compensation for loss of office and up to£55 a day in interest.
She was told a gagging clause in the contract had to be there but she said this had prevented her defending herself.
“I have been hounded, victimised and demonised by the press, by the local NHS and I would go as far as to say by the secretary of state.
“I could have used radio, papers, TV… I could have responded to the accusations the media were throwing at me.”
She said she felt scapegoated. “Quite clearly people wanted to have a head and to manage the report by having my head.
“I had no support from anyone in the NHS in handling the massive gang of media who were camping outside my door for days and days.”
Ms Gibb said the then chair James Lee told her the remuneration committee wanted to be generous to her and to pay her more but the SHA had put in a ceiling of£250.000.
Ms Gibb, who had worked in the NHS for 26 years, said she knew of other severance payments in the NHS which were at higher levels, such as two years’ pay, and she was “seeking something more comparable” with what happened elsewhere in the SHA and the NHS.
Ms Gibb said she had a good relationship with trust chair James Lee, describing him as “a man of integrity”.
“He had been pushed into this position by the SHA,” she said.
She described a trust where, after the April 2006 C difficile outbreak, directors were working 18 or 20-hour days and were making progress.
The board had made decisions about removing extra beds which, she said, meant the four-hour access target could not be met but this was a conscious decision to help infection control.
The trust had a good record on MRSA.