Rose Gibb, the former chief executive of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Trust, has won £175,000 in her appeal against the Department of Health’s intervention in her severance deal with the trust.

In the Court of Appeal judgement issued last Thursday, Lord Justice Sedley made stinging criticisms of the Department of Health, saying that it was willing to see her sacrificed on the “altar of public relations”.

Ms Gibb left the trust in October 2007, days before the publication of a highly critical Healthcare Commission report into outbreaks of C difficile at the trust.

She agreed a pay-off of £240,000 with the trust.

But days after the report came out then health secretary Alan Johnson told the trust not to pay it until the legality of the pay-off had been examined.

Ms Gibb was eventually told the trust would pay six months’ pay in lieu of notice - which it was contractually bound to do - but not the remaining £175,000 because the trust had been acting beyond its powers in agreeing the severance deal.

When she took the case to the High Court last year she lost, with Mr Justice Treacy agreeing that the agreement was “irrationally generous”.

Ms Gibb appealed that decision and last week won.

The judgement was critical of the former board of the trust, saying the “trustees” of the hospital group took the view, when a highly critical report was about to be published, that “the sacrifice most likely to propitiate the deities of Whitehall and the media was their chief executive officer, Ms Gibb”.

The trust said it was discussing its options with its lawyers.

Jon Restell, chief executive of the union Managers in Partnership, said. “This judgement makes clear that the DH and employers must respect the employment rights of senior NHS managers.”

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