Friday, June 25, 2010

She Should Hang Her Head in Shame

To many people around where I live in West Kent, the name Rose Gibb is as notorious as the name Rose West. A bit OTT, you may think, but I defy you to visit Tunbridge Wells and find anyone with a good word to say about her.

She was the chief executive of the local NHS Trust at a time when 90 local people contracted the CDiff bug and died.

She was sacked and her quarter of a million pound payoff was withdrawn by the then Health Secretary, Alan Johnson - quite rightly I felt.

Yesterday three High Court judges ruled in her favour and said she wasn't to blame at all and could not be held responsible for the outbreak. Well, if the chief of an NHS Trust can't be held accountable, who can be? It was under her watch that a totally lax cleaning regime was operating.

By bringing this to court Gibbs displayed crass insensitivity to the families of the 90 people who died, all of whom lay the blame at her door.

The irony is that she now runs a consultancy advising NHS managers how to run hospitals. Health Minister Simon Burns should issue an edict orddering NHS managers to avoid employing her firm.

Perhaps then, she might get the message.

38 comments:

OldSlaughter said...

Rose West was fitter.

Gallimaufry said...

"Health Minister Simon Burns should issue an edict orddering NHS managers to avoid employing her firm.

Perhaps then, she might get the message."
The message presumably being that two government ministers acted outside of their powers? More money for her and the lawyers. Surely Senior Civil Service and equivalent contracts should be rewritten to remove such generous payoffs.

Village Bookworm said...

I am going to be counter-intuitive here, Iain. I also live near T Wells and saw what went on. I have a degree of sympathy for her and her case.

No-one can deny that she screwed up and deserved some of the blame. She was not up to the job. But to be the scapegoat and villified in the way the BBC have done, in a pretty cheap bit of tabloid journalism - No!

The blame lies equally with her recent predecessor, who nearly bankrupted the trust [having previously made a mess of Sevenoaks Council] and left her to pick up the pieces; and equally the distorted priorities of the Labour government at the time who were driving financial efficiency and a target culture.

It is not as though she has been found solely to blame by a public enquiry.

Her legal challenge was contractual - and if she won it, she won it. Having defended her so far, it would be only right for her to have some humility now, and give her award to charity.

Chris said...

I totally agree that natural justice dictates that she shouldn't get a pay off and I also agree that as the CEO she is clearly accountable for what happened. However, I don't think the case was really about that. As I understand it, the Trust were under pressure to get rid of her before the report was published so they negotiated a compromise agreement - which is what you do when you want to fire someone without due process. Once the report came out it was clear there would be a public outcry about the terms of that agreement. So Johnson (who was not a party to the agreement) intervened to instruct the Trust not to honour it. The Trust should have waited until the report was published and then they would have been in a much stronger position to negotiate her departure without a pay off of this magnitude. But they were afraid of being accused of dithering when the thrust of the findings were already clear. You can say she has been insensitive by going to court - but an agreement was made and signed between her and the Trust. We are going down a dangerous road if we say that such agreements can be cancelled if they subsequently prove embarrassing to one of the parties. The fault lies with those who decided to make the agreement in the first place. It was poor judgement as this outcome was not that hard to predict. I have no time for Ms Gibb - but this is a legal precedent we cannot afford to set. A deal is a deal.

George said...

That's employment law for you.

Don't go by the numbers then a judge will sit up, take heed of the statutory wordings, pontificate and then screw you sideways.

It sucks.

She and her company should be subject to a boycott. BUT, methinks you cannot do that, not in 21st century Britain. The law is such, that it is an ass, that protects the feckless, the foolish, the stupid, the criminal, et al and looks down magisterially at the innocent and seeks ways to incriminate them.

Now that Gibbs has her blood money, perhaps the families should take civil proceedings against her personally. Tie her up in court for the rest of her natural, hopefully short, and make her spend all her money defending herself and proving that she ran a good ship. The deaths will be instrumental in disproving that canard.

Scrobs... said...

Was she involved with the relocation of the Pembury Hospital as well?

She's still a disgrace, and her payoff, as well as the ludicrous amount KCC are giving a failed 'regeneration' man after only a year of mucking about down south when he should be working closer to his home just beggers belief.

This means KCC , apart from the Iceland black hole, have pi$$ed way over £500,000 up against the wall to pay off these parasites.

pete-s said...

So the judges really ruled that she was not responsible, therefore she was not in control. But there was an outbreak because she was not in control, so therefore she is responsible.

Either my logic is corrupted or the judges are overpaid idiots.

Douglas said...

I think that this case shows the gap between natural justice (peoples opinion) and actual justice (the law).

The law was broken when she did not get what was agreed. And the law has to be followed.

trevorsden said...

Village Bookworm makes good points. There is a difference between a chief executive being ultimately responsible and being subsequently persecuted.

If it could be proved that this woman said 'cut the cleaning bill' or 'skimp on cleaning' despite being told that this would cause deaths - well then she should be prosecuted as should those people who so advised her but did not do anything subsequently.

But I strongly suspect that was not the case. What this woman was being told by the then government was to meet the targets set her.

Sadly Mr Dale the people ultimately responsible for bad hygiene are the people displaying the bad hygiene. This lady carries her share of responsibility, but really Mr Dale take a look at your own background; are you really comfortable with such cavalier branding of a fellow human being?

No names no packdrill but the chief executive of my local trust lost his job, sacked by labour, despite in my view doing a good job in the face of severe cut backs by labour who clearly robbed my trust of money to hand over to other trusts in marginal or labour held constituencies. The real bastard in this is labour and its targets.

Eddie said...

If NHS managers need outside "consultants" to advise them, they cannot be competent - the clue is in the title "manager" - and should be replaced. I've yet to meet consultants (apart from medical doctors) who were value for money.

Libertarian said...

@Iain

Being a Maidstone based businessman and unfortunate user of Maidstone and TW NHS trust ( sorry we can't send your xrays over our IT network, but if we could find a working CD writer I will copy a cd and you can take them to East Grinsted yourself !!!!) I mostly agree. Rose Gibb was out of her depth and had no right having such a job. I don't like to see people persecuted but common decency would have led Rose to not pursue this I think ( if she did really aspire to be a social leader and "manage outside authority" as trained by Common purpose.

@Scrobs

It's actually worse than that Tory controlled KCC also have more than Adam Wilkinson being paid off £350,000 of our money Peter Gilroy also went with a big chunk and there are more still going through.

Oh and how about this from their own website.

KCC went on a recruiting jaunt to Boston USA and recruited 4 social workers to work in Thanet, that's right the same Thanet that has the highest unemployment in SE England and one of the worst in the country .


The public sector operates in a a parallel universe were they claim that these people are hired in competition with the private sector, strangely though 1) they don't take the same responsibility for their "leadership 2) How come they always get another job in the public sector or 3) start "consultancies" offering services solely to the public sector

Ted Treen said...

To Pete-s

I find your logic unarguable, other than your suggestion that there is a possibility that judges aren't overpaid idiots.

There isn't.

They are.

They have been for at least several decades.

Greg said...

This all sounds strikingly similar to Harriet Harman's "court of public opinion" rubbish, Iain.

Unsworth said...

Yes, well her husband Mark Rees - who is also involved in her company - ran into some difficulties himself - as the chaps in the pub at Cobham mentioned to me. Google is your friend, but this is from today's Mirror report: "Incredibly, Rees was paid off from his own job running an NHS Trust after it ran up debts of £30million amid claims of weak leadership."

But make no mistake, the Law is not a Moral Code. Never has been, either. Would either of these two actually understand that?

Unsworth said...

@ Scrobs

KCC has a particularly generous view as to remunerations, generally. It's probably official policy.

Here's another example:
http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/news/2010/february/3/kcc_chiefs_200k_payoff.aspx.

And another: http://www.kentonline.co.uk/kentonline/news/2010/june/19/kcc_defends_365k_payoff.aspx

I've had direct dealings with some of these guys. They are very different animals to the rest of humanity - and beneath contempt.

Carter's previous is interesting, too.

bewick said...

Douglas @ 11.57 and others.
"natural justice" is actually a basic legal concept of judging according to the law and protecting against the arbitrary use of power. "Peoples opinions" don't come into it. Peoples opinions = lynch mobs and kangaroo courts outside of due process of law.
Johnson abused his power as Balls did with Sharon Shoesmith and I believe so did Michael Howard before them with the head of the prison service. Howard was a lawyer who should have known better.
I have no feelings for Ms Gibb or Sharon Shoesmith who both appear to have acted incompetently. Then again I don't know because I am not privy to the full details and as someone once responsible for employment law in a large organisation I know full well that such knowledge is essential in order to take a legally correct and fair decision which avoids compensation.

The REAL problem in both cases seems to be the original terms and conditions of service including the basic contract, the pay levels,monitoring of performance, and the apparent failure to follow due process in dismissing.
A genuine charge of "Gross misconduct" for example would mean dismissal with no payoff - subject of course to the terms of the contract. If the contract said that even in such circumstances a payoff would be made then it IS a contract enforceable in law whether you like it or not. As someone said - she WON on legal grounds so get over it. In fact "natural justice" prevailed.

As for Iain suggesting that the woman should be altruistic and hand over the money to charity. Well GET REAL Iain. I wouldn't and likely nor would you particularly if you felt that you had been unfairly treated and demonised. I know cases where ridiculous amounts have been awarded to incompetents on the basis that the employer "failed to recognise" that the individual wasn't coping (Walker vs Northumberland County Council and many others including a MoD typist awarded nearly £500k for repetitive strain injury - likely caused by her own bad practice and posture).

If you wish to blame anyone then blame the total incompetents who doled out cast iron legal contracts which meant that incompetence ws still highly rewarded. Phew, need a drink now.

bewick said...

@village bookworm

Tosh. I spent 28 years in public service. I was a successful and nationally recognised internal management consultant. Guess what? I was made redundant 20 years ago because some Chief Officers didn't like what I said. I had the last laugh though. Recently that particular Authority had to pay rather over the odds for a top 4 Management Consultancy to tell them to get back into line - just as I had tried to keep them in line. MASSIVE job losses now result. I shudder to think how many billions have been wasted in the intervening 20 years.
Whatever. Another "guess what". I started my own consultancy, mainly in the private sector, and found that my pay tripled, quadrupled, and FTSE firms actually kept offering me more to extend my contract. May not be true for social workers and NHS people though.

Rush-is-Right said...

The lesson here is you have got to have a properly worded contract of employment that gives grounds for dismissal without compensation in the event of gross misconduct.

And then you have to make sure that, as an employer, you stick to the terms of that contract when you make the dismissal. You also have to take legal advice at every stage.

I assume that what happened here is that this Gibb woman was not treated according to her contractual rights, hence the award. The person who fired her has some explaining to do.

When I worked in England as a fairly substantial employer we faced this situation on many occasions. We never lost a case. But you do have to be careful.

It's a bit off topic, but my very strong feeling is that for small businesses (25 employees or less) it would make a good deal of sense simply to exempt them from the employment protection laws. No unfair dismissal cases, no big awards, nothing. I can think of no single measure that would encourage employers to take people on.

bewick said...

Top marks Iain, My comments were critical of your original article.
I really didn't expect that they would pass your moderation but they did. Appreciate that. Thank you. Proved to me that you really are fair.

Gordon said...

Eddie @ 12.15

How are "consultants" defined in the NHS figures? Are they all management training etc or do they include people like me? I'm a consulting engineer. The firms I work for are brought in when the hospital is refurbishing a ward to design the heating, water services, medical gases, lighting, fire alarm and make sure it connects into the existing hospital system. Most PCTs don't have full design teams in their Estates Departments. If we count as consultants then we would be included along with management training etc.

Scrobs... said...

Libertarian and Unsworth - unbelievable!

First hand comment from someone who 'escaped' from all that culture was simply that many of these people all shift jobs every few years after being found out, or want to return to their roots etc. The next interviews are conducted with the blessing of a CV which 'understands' the 'work' they do, and the cycle starts again.

Up until recently, I was spending more on paying council tax pensions than I was our own.

AndrewSouthLondon said...

Rose Gibb already had a reputation in the NHS for ruthlessness and some might say megalomania.Thats no doubt why they they hired her, to make the dysfunctional merger of two Trusts work.

They hired a gunslinger to hit targets and then complained about the number of bodies.

Rose Gibb has been paid "damages". She claimed damage to her reputation What reputation, as a power-crazed axe-woman? How do you damage that?

The NHS is forever hiring consultants, who are mostly ex-NHS Chief Executives like Gibb in receipt of large pay-offs which preclude them working as an employee of the NHS again, so they come back as "independent consultants" working for the NHS again.

Hired by Chief Executives who know one day it will be their turn to become a consultant.


It stinks. Come on LimpDems, speak up, we can't hear you.

Tom said...

Strikes me as rather vindictive. Yes, terrible things happened, but reducing responsibility to one person misses the point somewhat. Scapegoating doesn't help anybody, it does not bring about any change that can ensure that these sorts of deaths won't happen in the future.

DiscoveredJoys said...

This seems like another case of arbitrary government by the elite. If a minister can effectively override the law in individual cases (such as those listed by bewick (good post btw) and Emperor Obama vs BP) then we are back to feudalism again.

Attentive management at the correct level will sort out the issues raised by allegedly incompetent individuals or firms. Otherise the suspicion is that 'worthies' like Howard, Balls, Johnson and Obama are posturing to deflect criticism of their own laziness.

Perhaps Rose Gibb deserved the sack. I don't know. But I would have been happier if due process had been followed. I just wonder how many other 'ordinary' people have been bounced out of work because it would have made one of the elite uncomfortable?

mtrcricket said...

There are many opinions for and against you, Iain.
What strikes me most is how your, and many other opinions are just knee jerk reactions. I do not know enough of the facts to form an opinion - AND NOR DO YOU.
I expect less bigoted, opinionated judgements from you

Kevin said...

having worked as a nurse in Kent i have to say that Village Bookworm is talking utter, utter tosh.

i have lost track of the times that those at the coal face are told we have to do more with less whilst watching the fat cats at the top walking away with huge pay packets and bonus's.

funny. because when you complain you are always told these bosses earn their money - because of all the responsibility they have.

funny isnt it that when things go wrong - that responsibility melts away and they are poor little victims and 'scapegoats!' (you do talk cack Village bookworm - you really do)

NO - they are greedy useless time wasters - who cant do the job and dont deserve their 6 figure salaries.

and three guesses who gets all the blame when it goes wrong - yeah - the buck is passed down the line till it hits the nurses - then the buck cant be passed any lower and they get to take the wrap whilst the real instigators - walk away with obsecene amounts of severance pay

ever wondered why these enquiries never finger the bosses as being the culprits ? think about why that might be and who makes up the panel that undertakes the enquiry.

eb said...

"Health Minister Simon Burns should issue an edict ordering NHS managers to avoid employing her firm."

I thought Conservative policy was to devolve power to the lowest level. That surely precludes ministers ordering local trusts about.

neilmack said...

I'm not surprised that an incompetent Health Service manager in Kent gets away with killing the patients and walking off with a substantial pay off. No action at all was taken against the baboons who ran Leicester's stinking (literally) hospitals when a similar outbreak occurred.

The real message is that judges should never be let loose without the supervision of a Jury. That would sort the old tossers out.

Jabba the Cat said...

Are you sure her name is not Rosa Kleb?

Terry said...

Spent my working life in the ASrmy Medica; Services - when we had them - and the NHS.
Difference between them: Army got on and cared for patients NHS wasted fortunes on bureaucracy and Labour's targets. Privatising cleaning contracts is plain silly. Cleaning firms have no idea how to deal with the medical environment. We should try the French way. Nurses are responsible for cleaning the wards and for individual patients. Heaven help them if a patient gets an infection in hospital. Perhaps our nurses should go back to what they are trained to do instead of wasting their time on computers.

Ronald said...

Top people in the NHS that she would have made contact with when she was running her hospital are, despite her record, are willing to give work to her company.

Proof that a lot of managers in the public sector are running things not for the benefit of the public but for themselves and their mates.

Incompetent doctors can be banned why cannot incompetent managers be banned. Or will she be more able when how much money she makes is in part dependant on how well she does her job?

Dan said...

Ian the issue is they did NOT fire her. They panicked, decided that waiting till the report came out and starting a disciplinary process with the guilty parties would have taken too long during which time she would be suspended but paid, if they get their act together 4-6 weeks would be needed but there have been appalling cases when the NHS has taken 12 months or more to sack a Doctor while suspending them on full pay in the mean time.

They also panicked in that as part of a disciplinary she would have been in a position to defend herself, here is the email from the Minister saying xxxx, here is the email from the Health Authority saying xxx, here is the email from the Medical Director saying xxxxx.

She was faced with a culture which wanted reports of 100% delivery of some arbitrary targets and 100% delivery of financial balance in each financial year, she also had responsibility to provide a high quality hospital service.

I have not read the report but if she was responsible then she should have been sacked but the politicians should be strong enough to stand up to the tabloids and say the guilty people will be sacked and we will get the right people but it may take a little time. If for political reasons you want instant reaction of people to fall on their sword then sorry you have to pay them off.

Unsworth said...

@ Tom

This is not 'scapegoating', it is holding one individual to account. Ms Gibb was in charge. Her responsibilities included ensuring that the hospital in question was run correctly. She did not do so. She oversaw the placing of contracts, sub-contracts, and recruitment as part of her job - and people died. If she was not up to it she should have stood down or, far better, never have applied for the post. There would have been fewer graves if that had been so.

"it does not bring about any change that can ensure that these sorts of deaths won't happen in the future."

Well, there we can agree. This Judgement has entirely reinforced that position. What it means is that power does not entail responsibility, that authority is absolute and without consequence. It demonstrates clearly to other senior NHS personnel that they can rely on the courts to ensure their massive remunerations and to determine punitive damages and costs against any employer willing to seek true justice.

Cui Bono?

Cynic said...

Yeah Terry. And they should all carry lamps and those leeches are great for treating everything from piles to cancer

The King of Wrong said...

Iain, got to disagree there.

Yes, she's (apparently) incompetent and should have been sacked as the responsible party for the (tragic) deaths, but that's not what happened. She agreed to resign without a fuss, in return for cash - something fairly standard which avoids all the messy details coming out in court - but then the local NHS Trust, after ministerial interference, breached that agreement.

It would set an appalling precedent to suggest that contracts can be torn up at will if a government minister wants to score some headlines, and the court could really only rule the way it did.

The failures here are much earlier: Alan Johnson should never have got involved, the local NHS Trust should never have agreed to the settlement, Gibb should have had the guts and integrity to resign without a quid-pro-quo, and she should almost certainly never have been given the top job... and, of course, 90 people shouldn't have died due to avoidable incidents in the first place.

But the judgement is fair and entirely reasonable.

HampsteadOwl said...

@eb

"I thought Conservative policy was to devolve power to the lowest level"

Yes a lot of people make that mistake. In fact it is to devolve power to the lowest level up to the point when it becomes politically expedient no longer to do so.

Look at Pickles, striding around and basking in the plaudits for "banning" local councils from publishing their own newspapers. Last time I checked we elect these councils and if we don't like their "town-hall Pravdas" we can vote the buggers out.

If there are genuine competition issues arising from the practice, let the Competition Commission investigate. It's what it's there for. Instead we get yet another grandstanding politician, acting in defiance of any principle for the sake of a cheap headline and the coveted first place in the list of the top ten performing coalition ministers (© Iain Dale)

Roger Thornhill said...

I thought this person was originally allowed to resign with a pay off instead of getting sacked just before the shyte hit the fan.

It does appear to happen far too often in the public sector and, before anyone complains, if it happens in the private sector, then people will make a note of it, but in this case we are forced to cough up for her under pain of imprisonment and that, frankly, is not right.

Nurse Anne said...

Kevin,

I don't even reply on this blog anymore because of the stupid things that the people on here say about Nurses. Come and hang out with us over at Militant Medical Nurse.

One of the next posts I am going to do is going to be called "Stupid, ignorant things that Iain Dale and his readers have posted about Nurses".

Seriously I wouldn't bother with them. They cannot differentiate between a Nurse and a carer. Nor do they understand the situation in the NHS. Their view of nursing is so warped (thanks to TV) that they cannot even understand why a bedside registered Nurse needs to be well educated).

If I spent any more time on this site my head would explode, and I lean towards conservative.

Back to the subject at hand I just wanted to add that what happened at Maidstone is happening everywhere. There are always going to be infection control problems as long as we have 110% bed occupancy, poor RN to patient ratios, etc etc. The thing with CDiff is that it travels in spores that are almost impossible to destroy. You don't get it from dirty hospitals. These kinds of superbugs are in most people now, ready to strike when their immune system is down. These bugs are all over the community. It is down to overuse of antibiotics throughtout the 20th century.

Would be nice if they would hire cleaners though.