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Watchdog resigns over deputy’s sexual harassment cover-up

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The parliamentary health service ombudsman has resigned in the wake of revelations about the involvement of her former deputy in a sexual harassment cover-up at an NHS trust.

Dame Julie Mellor’s departure comes four months after it was revealed she was made aware of the role played by her deputy Mick Martin, who helped to cover up the harassment of a director while he was acting chair at Derbyshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

“I have accepted and taken responsibility for mistakes I made”

Julie Mellor

An investigation has been carried out by Sir Alex Allan, former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, into what Dame Julie knew about Mr Martin’s role and her failure to act, but has not yet been published.

Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal previously reported that Dame Julie was sent a copy of the ruling of an employment tribunal last year, including concerns about Mr Martin’s behaviour. Dame Julie replied only to say that she “noted” the concerns.

Mr Martin continued to work as PHSO managing director and deputy ombudsman until after his involvement in the case was revealed earlier this year.

In her resignation letter, Dame Julie said: “With regard to the handling of correspondence about an employment tribunal’s criticisms of our previous managing director – I have accepted and taken responsibility for mistakes I made. As soon as I realised, I took action to put things right and prevent it happening again.”

Dame Julie is expected to stay in post until a successor has been appointed.

In April Mr Martin resigned from his role at the PHSO after taking a leave of absence when his role in the treatment of former Derbyshire Healthcare HR director Helen Marks emerged in February.

In February Ms Marks received £832,711 in compensation after an employment tribunal ruled she was unfairly dismissed.

She wrote to Dame Julie in July with a letter and copy of the employment tribunal judgment describing how Mr Martin was involved in collusion to cover up her treatment by former trust chair Alan Baines.

Mr Baines unfairly suspended Ms Marks after she refused his advances and subjected her to abusive messages and false allegations.

In a statement on behalf of the PHSO non-executive directors, Sir Jon Shortridge said: “We are very grateful to Julie Mellor for her contribution in leading the transformation of the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

“With her at the helm, the ombudsman service has opened its doors to more people than ever before, providing justice to the very many people who have been failed by public services,” he said.

“Whilst we respect her decision, we very much regret that we shall be losing someone of such vision, passion and commitment. She has given power and a voice to people who have been let down by public services,” he said. ”She will be missed.”

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