Select Committee on Public Accounts Minutes of Evidence


Supplementary memorandum submitted by the Department of Health

Questions 115 and 116: Where are we in those two inquiries that are still outstanding and will we see a report at some stage?

The disciplinary at Stoke Mandeville took place at the end of March and resulted in the dismissal of the Chief Executive. This is subject to appeal and the appeal is currently timetabled for the end of July.

Four Senior Managers at Salford Royal Hospitals NHS Trust were featured in the Independent HR Report. The outcome of the disciplinary procedures with each of these individuals is as follows:

    —  The Chief Executive at the time that the inappropriate adjustments took place had resigned from the Trust before the completion of the District Auditor's Report and the Independent Review. Having formally received and considered a copy of the report of the Independent Review, the Chairmen of the individual's new employing organisation took the view that formal disciplinary action was not warranted.

    —  The Director of Strategy and Development has been subject to a formal disciplinary procedure. However, at the time that the disciplinary procedure was invoked the director was absent from work through sickness and subsequently resigned.

    —  The General Manager, Surgical Services was also subject to a formal disciplinary hearing, which resulted in a formal written warning.

    —  No formal disciplinary action was considered appropriate by the Trust in respect of the Director of Finance and Information because of the peripheral nature of the individual's role in waiting list/times management.

Question 143: Can you provide the names of the senior personnel at Barts and the London whilst this process was going on?

The Chief Executives at Barts and the London during this process were as follows:

    —  Mr R Pett, until his resignation on 30 September 2000.

    —  Mr J Asbridge, acting CE from 1 October 2000 to 9 September 2001.

    —  Mr P White, from 10 September 2001—currently still in post.

The Chairmen were as follows:

    —  Mr B Gilmore, until his resignation on 31 July 2000.

    —  Mrs E Gilding, acting Chair from 1 August until 31 December 2000.

    —  Mr M Vandersteen, from 1 January 2001—currently still in post.

Question 50 and Chairman's closing statement: What was the basis on which Colin Jones was dismissed from Oxfordshire Health Authority and Nuffield NHS Trust?

Mr Colin Jones, former District Treasurer of Oxfordshire Health Authority, was made redundant in March 1990 as a result of re-organisation. Following solicitor's advice, the HA paid a termination settlement of £149,052.80 which comprised of:

60 weeks' redundancy payment £43,969.80
three months' salary in lieu of notice £9,553
two and a half years' salary (as compensation) £95,530
The NHS Executive subsequently established that Mr Jones was only entitled to the first two parts of the settlement and therefore the compensation element (£95,530) was considered ultra vires.

The HA initiated recovery proceedings by serving a Writ in the High Court but Mr Jones's solicitors responded by declaring they would fight any attempt to recover monies received. Following Counsel's Opinion that there was no basis for bad faith, with regard to Mr Jones receiving the payment, the advice was that his defence could well be successful.

Having examined Counsel's Opinion and the pertinent facts of the case it was considered not to be cost effective to proceed with recovery action. The HA provided assurance that their management systems would not leave the Authority vulnerable to any such re-occurrence and as a result Treasury gave approval to write off the £95,530.

With regard to Mr Jones's dismissal from the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre NHS Trust, this took place on 8 January 2001 when the Chairman notified Mr Jones by letter. The Board took the decision following Mr Jones's failure to attend disciplinary hearings set up to hear allegations of sexual harassment against him. During this time issues concerning management shortcomings and financial probity had also been raised which the Board concluded needed to be taken into account. All the while, Mr Jones had been on extended sick leave since July 2000, but he had confirmed his intention, by letter, to return to work on 29 January 2001.

In response to the termination of his contract, Mr Jones initiated legal action in the High Court claiming damages for breach of contract including wrongful dismissal. The original claim was for a sum in excess of £300,000.

For the impending court case, specialist employment legal advice was taken. However, after due consideration, it was concluded that the Trust would be more than likely to lose the case if it was taken to court. The principal conclusions that led to this advice were:

    —  It would not be possible to prove, to the standard required by the Court, that shortcomings in general and financial management were the personal responsibility of Mr Jones. To justify the action to dismiss him in the way he was, any management shortcomings attributed to him personally would have needed to amount to something close to gross misconduct; the Court would be highly unlikely to take that view.

    —  Notwithstanding the attempts which were made to hold a disciplinary hearing, the court would take the view that Mr Jones had been given insufficient opportunity to defend himself against the charges made.

    —  Even if the case was fought on the grounds of the original sexual harassment issues only, it would stand only a limited chance of success.

An out of court settlement has been reached. This avoided the need for a court hearing that may have been a significant drain on the public purse, damaging to staff morale and undermined local public confidence in the Trust. The settlement provided for Mr Jones to receive a lump sum compensation payment of c. £40,000 together with the preservation of his NHS pension rights, both an initial lump sum and an annual pension. In order to preserve his pension rights, the Trust was required to make a payment to the NHS Pension Fund of c. £155,000 thereby bringing the total cost of the settlement to the NHS of £195,000.

Mr Jones is currently working as Chief Executive with a charitable organisation, namely the National Back Pain Association. However, as stated by my colleague, Mr Foster, at the hearing, it is our intention to put in place a mechanism to ensure that cases like this one, result in the individual not being employed in the NHS again.

Department of Health

April 2002

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