The Royal College of Midwives yesterday suggested that it could take legal action against a hospital trust and chief executive, after an unusual exit deal for a manager at the centre of a care scandal was revealed.
On Thursday it was revealed that the RCM had threatened to serve an injunction against the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust to prevent it revealing the existence of an “irregular” payoff deal for an employee involved in a care scandal.
On Friday, the college issued a new statement suggesting it could take legal action against Morecambe Bay and implying that the trust had revealed details of an internal report into the payoff.
It said: “We cannot allow the trust to reveal details of a confidential agreement, entered into in good faith by both parties, with impunity. Nor can we stand by and allow employers to invade the privacy of their former employees.
“The RCM is carefully considering its options to pursue the trust and those involved in the decision to disclose this confidential information,” it added.
“We cannot allow the trust to reveal details of a confidential agreement”
However, the statement does not address concerns about patient safety and the public interest in revealing the deal, which prevented an investigation into alleged poor behaviour by maternity risk manager Jeanette Parkinson.
The payoff was given to a midwife at the trust who was central to the maternity care scandal there, which led to the avoidable deaths of 11 babies and one mother.
Ms Parkinson, who was also an RCM official, was heavily criticised by the Kirkup inquiry into care failings in the trust last year and is facing an investigation by the Nursing and Midwifery Council.
In 2012 Ms Parkinson received 14 months redundancy pay when she was only entitled to one, as well as being paid for 470 hours of additional work, which the trust accepted her claim for without challenge.
“This threatening statement… is immoral and wrong”
The latest RCM statement said: “Up to now University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust has been transparent and we have welcomed their admission of past failings.
“Sadly, despite the law and government rightly placing great importance on privacy, the trust has inexplicably disregarded this for our member,” it said. “The Data Protection Act and other legislation are there for a reason, reflecting fundamental tenets of common law built up over centuries.
“Allowing the trust to disregard our member’s personal privacy is in breach of all established employment law principles. If left unchallenged it has the potential to end the right of privacy for everyone,” said the college.
“This could mean any confidentiality or privacy clause in any agreement an individual signs with an employer or anyone else would have no weight at all,” it said.
Last week the RCM threatened Morecambe Bay chief executive Jackie Daniel with an injunction.
Following the latest development, James Titcombe, whose son Joshua died after failings at the trust in 2008, said: “The deal that was facilitated in the first instance was immoral and wrong – the RCM’s attempt to keep it secret was immoral and wrong and now this threatening statement, which implies the RCM is going to take action against a chief executive who has clearly done the right and honourable thing, is immoral and wrong.”
Sir David Henshaw, who joined Morecambe Bay as chair in February 2012, shortly before the payoff deal was approved, has said he did not know about the deal’s existence.
St George’s University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, where Sir David is now chair, said: “Sir David was unaware of the payment in question, so is not in a position to comment on how or why this might have occurred.”