Crisis hospital’s £120,000 defence

Maggie Southcote-Want''MPMC WK20 M10
Maggie Southcote-Want''MPMC WK20 M10

AS Milton Keynes hospital struggles with a closed ward and a multi-million pound financial crisis, bosses have admitted spending £120,000 on lawyers – for one employment tribunal.

Over the past four years the Trust has denied its former Director of Nursing Margaret Southcote-Want was unfairly sacked from her job.

When Ms Southcote-Want won her case in 2009, the hospital, which employed a barrister, lodged an appeal and won a re-hearing.

The result came last week – a resounding victory for Ms Southcote-Want and criticism that former hospital chief executive Jill Rodney committed a ‘substantial breach of fairness’.

Ms Southcote-Want said: “It is an incredible relief that it is all over and I will now be seeking to get my job and my life back.”

She was sacked in September 2007 for allegedly appointing a friend to a middle ranking position at the hospital.

The tribunal ruled that she had not acted improperly in doing this.

It also ruled there had been a substantial breach of Trust policies by former Human Resources director Chanelle Wilkinson and Jill Rodney.

Ironically throughout the later stages of her battle, Ms Southcote-Want had been a regular visitor at the hospital – to receive treatment as a cancer patient.

“At the time of the latest hearing in March I was having chemotherapy treatment,” she said “I was also having to represent myself against the hospital’s barrister because I could not afford any more legal fees.”

This week the hospital admitted it had spent £120,000 on legal costs. during the case.

Current human resources director Kathy Renacre said: “This is clearly a significant sum of money and the decision to appeal was not taken lightly.

She added: “Following this result, we are not planning to appeal again.”

In January the Citizen reported how the hospital needed to save £27.7 million over the next two years.

This week it is holding meetings with budget holders for each department to “strengthen existing controls” and employ locum or agency staff only where there is a “clear clinical need”.

Other staff may still face redundancy,

In May, after cutting the average time of patient stay, an entire ward was closed.

It has not yet re-opened.