Hospital hit by mega legal bill

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CASH-STRAPPED Milton Keynes Hospital could face an auditor’s investigation after blowing £284,000 on LOSING a single claim of unfair dismissal.

The sum disputed was a mere £60,600, which the employee offered in vain to settle for years ago.

Instead, the case of former nursing director Margaret Southcote-Want has dragged on since 2008 and has involved top London barristers recruited by the Hospital Trust.

One of them was Daniel Tatton-Brown, described on his own website as “a bit of a bruiser”.

But this week, in the final judgement, he lost resoundingly against Margaret, who defended herself.

Judge McMahon stated: “We are satisfied Ms Southcote-Want was dismissed from a very senior position after long and good NHS service in clear breach of the Trust’s disciplinary process.”

He added: “We have said before that we are satisfied that no senior officer or board member of the Trust would want to be treated in the way Ms Southcote-Want was treated.”

Margaret won the initial hearing in 2009 but the hospital appealed and was granted a re-hearing, which she also won.

The £60,000 sum of compensation was finally agreed at a remedies hearing last year. But when it heard the amount, hospital bosses commissioned its barrister to dispute it at another hearing, this time over a bizarre gagging order.

Their allegation was that Margaret had lied during a previous hearing when she stated she had not given interviews to journalists.

Lawyers even contacted journalists, including the Citizen, to ask where the stories they printed had come from – only to be told that all the hearings were held in public and the press was entitled to report every word.

This week the hospital said it had been “obliged” to defend itself but promised there would be no more appeals.

Now Margaret has asked her MP Iain Stewart to demand an audit investigation into the £285,000 spend.

She told the Citizen: “I have been through hell and back and I’m grateful it’s over.

“But I was flabbergasted to hear how much the hospital has spent on lawyers.

“They could have saved all that cash and settled for £60,000 when I suggested it.”