Top hospitals trust boss responsible for planned shake-up did not know key staff member’s role

Tom Abell

THE man in charge of the re-organisation of the region’s hospitals and health service provision and a key player in plans to close Orsett Hospital has been criticised for his lack of professional knowledge.

Tom Abell is deputy chief executive of Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Foundation Trust and is chief transformation officer for the trust, together with partner trusts at Mid Essex and Southend.

He was previously chief officer of NHS Basildon and Brentwood Clinical Commissioning Group.

As part of his role he will be responsible for changing the roles and location of many members of staff. However, he found himself in the dock after not being aware of the role of one of his most senior colleagues during job restructuring. That led her to be unfairly dismissed, a tribunal has found.

Mr Abell was not aware that Carmel Connell – associate director, quality improvement at Mid Essex Hospital NHS Trust– had responsibility for Care Quality Commission matters – even though it constituted about 50 per cent of the role she was in.

She eventually resigned in September 2017 after her position was deleted following a consultation period in 2017, despite not being matched to any new role and then later subsequently offered a role as a programme director with a “significantly lower salary” and with a job role very different to her previous one.

“The claimant’s former role was therefore a higher strategic role than the programme director role,” employment Judge Brown determined in a written decision.

The trust was found to have made several mistakes amounting to a breach of the duty of trust and Mr Abellfailed to respond to a number of the claimant’s letters requesting information on the matching exercise.

Judge Brown added: “On my findings of fact, I concluded that the respondent did act, without reasonable or proper cause, in such a way as was calculated or likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of trust and confidence between the claimant and respondent, by its actions during the consultation and restructure process.

“I decided that the respondent failed, at the outset of the restructure and consultation process, to establish the claimant’s existing job duties and responsibilities.

“Mr Abell was not aware that the claimant had responsibility for CQC matters when, on my findings, this responsibility encompassed about 50 per cent of the associated Director – quality improvement job the claimant was undertaking before the restructure.

“Mr Abell’s lack of knowledge, when subsequently revealed in the 20 April 2017 consultation meeting, was bound to have alarmed the claimant and shaken her confidence.”

Ms Connell’s claims of unfair dismissal and for a statutory redundancy payment were accepted and a remedy hearing will proceed.

Mr Abell said: “We have reflected on the findings of the tribunal and are working to tighten up processes so our staff are always treated fairly and appropriately.”