Page last updated at 19:28 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Bug scandal boss 'made scapegoat'

Former chief executive Rose Gibb
Rose Gibb resigned ahead of the Healthcare Commission's report

The former boss of a Kent NHS trust who is fighting for a 250,000 payoff has told the High Court she was made a scapegoat over a superbug scandal.

Rose Gibb said she was "demonised" by the popular press after a damning Healthcare Commission (HCC) report into clostridium difficile (C-diff).

The report concluded the infection was "definitely or probably" the main cause of death for 90 patients at the trust.

Ms Gibb left Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust in October 2007.

Days later, the HCC report was published.

Ms Gibb told Mr Justice Treacy, in London, that she disagreed with many of the HCC's findings and believed it had a preconceived agenda.

The NHS allowed me to be demonised by the popular press
Rose Gibb

When she was advised in July 2007 that she should "fall on her sword", she said she refused to resign from her 150,000-a-year chief executive post.

She believed the HCC report was "full of inaccuracies, innuendo and unfounded criticisms" and was "shocked, crying and distressed" when told her contract was to be terminated.

She said she was left with a clear understanding that the trust could not resist pressure and threats from the Strategic Health Authority.

"I also understood that this was a reaction to the impending HCC report to manage the public and any fallout. I was to be the scapegoat."

She said she was still being used as a scapegoat in the report even though it confirmed, together with the Health and Safety Executive and Kent Police, that there was no evidence which would allow individuals to be blamed.

'Personal comments'

"The NHS allowed me to be demonised by the popular press, and my family to be terrorised by the press following my children - then aged five and three - in cars to school," she said.

"This harassment included personal comments made about me by the secretary of state who, without any reference to the trust, or informing me, made public announcements regarding my severance value and its non-payment."

She said she resigned because she was relying on the trust honouring its 250,000 payoff agreement.

But she had only been paid 75,000 for six months' notice and had not received 175,000 compensation.

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.

"I have lost my reputation and been used as a scapegoat by the NHS and secretary of state, as well as demonised by the popular press," she said.

Ms Gibb said the trust was not complacent about any of the care issues raised in the HCC report and took action after conducting its own review.

She did not dispute that some lives might have been saved if better procedures had been in place.

But she did not accept the head of a public sector organisation had no realistic choice but to resign in those circumstances.

"Otherwise - to be honest with you - there would be an awful lot of gaps in executive posts in the NHS because patients die regularly because of inaction or actions which could have been different," she said.

The case continues.

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