Ninety people dead. The lives of hundreds of relatives blighted. The reputation of hundreds of staff, not to mention an entire hospital trust, in tatters. That’s the legacy which former Chief Executive of the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells Hospital Trust Rose Gibb left behind after the Clostridium Difficile scandal when she left in October 2007.
Miss Gibb was said to be “shocked, crying and distressed” when she heard her contract was to be terminated. She felt the NHS had allowed her to be “demonised” by the press”, and criticised the then Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson for making public statements about ensuring Miss Gibb would not receive an agreed severance payoff.
At the time, I was KCC’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, and had occasion to meet Miss Gibb regarding the proposed new Pembury Hospital . I found her to be engaging, thoughtful and dedicated. More importantly, those staff I spoke to on a subsequent tour of both Pembury Hospital and Kent and Sussex Hospital, had nothing but good words for Miss Gibb, who had resolved numerous long-standing gripes on behalf of the nursing staff.
But let’s be clear; if an organisation fails, its senior management bear ultimate culpability. Miss Gibb was asked to “fall on her sword” as long ago as July 2007 but refused, preferring instead to stay in position as £150,000 a year Chief Executive. Dismissed just three months later, she then began a fight through the courts for full payment of a hefty £250,000 golden handshake. The news today is that Miss Gibb has been granted leave to appeal against the High Court decision last April that £175,000 of this payoff should be withheld.
The hearing has apparently been set for February next year. Whether Miss Gibb is right or wrong to fight for this cash, let’s just hope the whole sorry business can be resolved sooner rather than later. To continue this saga is to cause prolonged stress and anxiety to hundreds of relatives and friends of those who died.