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Midwife union drops threat of legal action against trust

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The Royal College of Midwives will not take legal action against the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust after it revealed details of an “irregular” redundancy deal for a former midwife involved in a care scandal at the trust.

Last month, the RCM issued a statement that suggested it could take legal action against the trust for making public details of an internal investigation into the exit deal and compromise agreement made with the trust’s former maternity risk manager Jeanette Parkinson.

However, in a new joint statement issued today, the trust and the RCM confirmed the college would not pursue a case against the trust.

They said the trust’s decision to reveal details of the agreement was a “unique situation” and in some circumstances “the responsibilities of the employer and those representing employees do not always exactly align”.

The RCM was criticised for previously threatening the trust with an injunction to prevent it from publishing an internal review, including details of the deal, agreed in 2012. Ms Parkinson received 14 months’ redundancy pay, when she was entitled to one month, and more than 470 hours of overtime pay.

As part of the deal, Jeannette Parkinson, a former senior RCM official, agreed to leave the trust in 2012 without an investigation into her alleged poor behaviour.

Ms Parkinson was criticised in the Kirkup report last year, which examined maternity failures leading to the avoidable deaths of at least 11 babies and one mother at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria. She is being investigated by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

“The trust is grateful that the RCM has agreed not to pursue a claim against it”

Joint statement

The exit agreement was signed by the trust’s then HR director Roger Wilson, who is now HR director at Warrington and Halton Hospitals Foundation Trust. Mr Wilson has denied any “impropriety” related to the deal, which did not go through any formal governance processes and was signed without the knowledge of then chair Sir David Henshaw.

The trust and the RCM’s statement said: “The trust respects the importance of confidentiality in settlement agreements. Its action in releasing the details of this settlement agreement was a unique response to a unique situation.

“Whilst the trust regrets any distress this disclosure caused, the overriding aim was for openness, transparency and candour in close liaison with the family to understand and address their residual concerns,” it said.

It added: “The RCM and the trust acknowledge that trying to deliver both the learning from, and to give justice to, those affected by past poor maternity services at Morecambe Bay is proving to be complex.

“In striking a balance between individual legal rights, collective rights, the need to demonstrate openness and transparency, acknowledging past failings, and meeting the specific needs of individual patients, families and employees, the responsibilities of the employer and those representing employees do not always exactly align,” it also said.

“The trust is grateful that the RCM has agreed not to pursue a claim against it,” said the statement.

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