Hospital bosses were so desperate to get rid of chief executive Rose Gibb, they were prepared to offer her a higher payment than the norm, a court heard yesterday.
The claims were made by Oliver Segal, barrister to Miss Gibb, the former chief executive of the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust, in the High Court.
Miss Gibb is claiming for breach of contract because the trust, which runs Maidstone Hospital, Pembury Hospital and the Kent and Sussex Hospital in Tunbridge Wells, has not yet paid her £250,000.
She claims that sum was agreed in a "compromise agreement" in return for her stepping down just days before a damning Healthcare Commission report was published in October 2007.
The court heard that the trust did have the power to negotiate the compromise agreement. Mr Segal told the court that normal dismissal rates were 12 months salary plus the pension.
He said that had they not offered the sum she would not have left, and hospital bosses would have had to suspend Miss Gibb and carry out an investigation, which she could have then challenged.
Extracts were read to the court from a letter former chairman James Lee wrote to the health authority. In it he said: “The trust was in complete disarray. Management time was already devoted to the [Healthcare Commission] report. our finances were deteriorating daily and our paramount concern was to restore order to the trust and refocus on patient care.
“We knew our case for dismissal was weak. We knew she would fight hard and she had briefed her solcitiors. We knew that if we fought management would be distracted and our costs would be very signiificant indeed.”
The court also heard that the trust’s former board initially gave support to Miss Gibb in the summer but then felt under pressure to remove her from her job when the publication of the commission’s report drew nearer.
It also heard that by taking the money, she would have effectively agreed to be “gagged” and never speak to the media. She also had to agree that she wouldn’t pursue any grievance.
Miss Gibb, who had shorter hair and was dressed in a biege suit and white top, did not speak in court today. She will give evidence tomorrow, as will the trust's new chief executive, Glenn Douglas.
She faced a barrage of press photographers on arrival at court and on leaving.
The case continues.