Page last updated at 18:29 GMT, Monday, 26 January 2009

Bug scandal boss fights for cash

Unwashed cups in ward utility room
The Healthcare Commission found countless examples of dirt

The former boss of an NHS trust where where 90 people died in a superbug scandal is asking the High Court to uphold her 250,000 payoff.

Rose Gibb left her job days before the publication of a damning report into hygiene standards at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in Kent.

The trust negotiated the 250,000 deal but withheld 175,000 after being told not to pay it by the government.

The hearing in London is expected to last three days.

Counsel for the trust, Jane McNeill, said the case was significant for the public generally, as well as for the trust.

The court was told Ms Gibb was put on "gardening leave" from her 150,000-a-year chief executive post at the beginning of October 2007.

Six-month notice

Days later the Healthcare Commission's report was published, which concluded that clostridium difficile (C-diff) infection was definitely or probably the main cause of death for 90 patients.

A financial agreement was signed between Ms Gibb and the trust on 5 October, and the Department of Health's instruction to withhold payment followed six days later.

She was later paid 75,000, representing the sum she would have earned her six-month notice period.

The trust is contesting Ms Gibb's claim for the full 250,000, saying the agreement to pay her compensation was irrational and generous in the circumstances.

Her counsel, Oliver Segal, said the trust was happy with Ms Gibb, who started work in 2003, until the C-diff outbreaks which began in April 2006 and lasted for six months.

Terminate employment

Ms Gibb disagreed with many of the findings in the Healthcare Commission report which she saw in draft form before its publication.

Mr Segal said that pressure was put on the trust to consider either terminating her employment or moving her to another post.

The trust then commissioned its own independent report to deal with issues raised by the Commission relating to Ms Gibb.

That report, which was favourable to Ms Gibb, was presented in July 2007 to the non-executive directors of the remuneration committee, who said that her removal would do nothing but harm.

But, said Mr Segal, it was then decided by the trust that the best course would be to encourage or, if necessary, force Ms Gibb to step down before the publication of the Healthcare Commission report.

Ms Gibb, of Sole Street, Cobham, Kent is expected to give evidence on Tuesday.

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