Hospital boss devastated at libel case loss

PUBLISHED: 10:18 13 March 2006 | UPDATED: 08:58 24 May 2010

A SENIOR manager at Weston General Hospital is to appeal after losing a £1million libel battle with the BBC over allegations she helped manipulate patient waiting lists. Marion Henry, of The Crescent, Weston, sued for damages over claims made in a Points

A SENIOR manager at Weston General Hospital is to appeal after losing a £1million libel battle with the BBC over allegations she helped manipulate patient waiting lists.Marion Henry, of The Crescent, Weston, sued for damages over claims made in a Points West report broadcast on May 2004. It alleged she was 'guilty of fiddling the figures' at the hospital and covering it up.She vigorously denied the allegation, made in part by whistle-blower Michele Masson.Yesterday (Thurs) High Court judge Mr Justice Gray dismissed Mrs Henry's libel challenge and concluded the BBC broadcast was true.Mrs Henry's counsel, Mr Richard Rampton QC, told the court she will be financially 'obliterated' by the massive legal costs, estimated at £1million.But under the terms of a 'no win, no fee' arrangement with her lawyers Mrs Henry will not pay her own legal team's bills.Mrs Henry is also covered by an insurance policy, but lawyers confirmed outside court this will only protect her against 'a fraction' of the BBC's legal costs, estimated at £500,000. Mr Rampton said the ruling was an 'enormous catastrophe' for Mrs Henry.Following the case Mrs Henry said: "My family and I are simply devastated by this judgment."In a number of crucial respects the judge has simply disregarded not only my own evidence but also that of the numerous witnesses who appeared on my behalf. What makes this judgment particularly hard to take is the fact I had been at the forefront of the campaign to have Michele Masson's allegations investigated properly and was subsequently exonerated by two independent investigations and indeed commended for my tenacity in ensuring these were undertaken thoroughly."It goes without saying my legal team will be applying to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal. I have dedicated 30 years of my life to serving the NHS and I simply cannot allow this unjust decision to go unchallenged."The judge found that Linda Marvin, a colleague of Mrs Henry, knew what was going on and it was 'likely' she would have told her as they shared an office.Mr Justice Gray said: "I also think it more probable than not Mrs Henry would have discussed targets with her boss and the improper means by which the hospital was meeting them."My assessment is that Mrs Henry was aware of and, on occasion, complicit in the manipulation of data which senior members of the board had instructed should take place."Mr Justice Gray also found that Mrs Henry's actions were likely to have been detrimental to the health of patients and she had covered up the fraud, but dismissed claims that she 'bullied' staff into carrying out the fraud.Mrs Henry's case was that although she had responsibility for waiting list figures, she was so busy on a day-to-day basis that she had little idea of what was going on.In ordering Mrs Henry to pay the action's legal costs, the judge said the BBC had, prior to the trial, made three offers to settle her libel claim.In its final attempt the BBC offered to pay Mrs Henry £5,000, contribute £450,000 towards her legal bills and make a joint statement in open court in which her assurance she had not been involved in waiting list manipulation would have been accepted.The offer was rejected by Mrs Henry, who began working at Weston General on a part-time basis in 1979. By 2000 she had risen through the ranks to become the general manager, with 11 heads of department answering to her. She still works at the hospital as corporate services manager.

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