Accused manager defended by colleague

A SENIOR manager at Ipswich Hospital accused of bullying a member of staff has been described as a “supportive and friendly manager” by an ex-colleague.

Russell Claydon

A SENIOR manager at Ipswich Hospital accused of bullying a member of staff has been described as a “supportive and friendly manager” by an ex-colleague.

Robert Power's former personal assistant, Jo Higgins, told an employment tribunal he was “certainly not a bully” and told how he helped her settle back into work following a stroke.

Ms Higgins, now medical directorate administrator for nursing at Ipswich Hospital, told the hearing in Bury St Edmunds yesterday a colleague who Mr Power was accused of forcing out appeared to be struggling with aspects of her work.

She said Gillian Kemble, 61, from Colchester, also often talked to colleagues about seeking early retirement before she resigned on November 10, 2006, after allegedly being forced from her post.

Mrs Kemble, a former assistant service manager at the hospital, and Sue Gill, a formal personal assistant to Mr Power, are seeking up to £70,000 in compensation for constructive dismissal against Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust over Mr Power's alleged behaviour.

Most Read

The tribunal heard how on September 25, 2006, Mrs Kemble came into the office Miss Higgins shared with a colleague and burst into tears, swearing about Mr Power and saying he kept “changing the goalposts” of her work.

She read out in a statement: “When Mrs Kemble left our room, Ms Wherrett and I commented to each other that the situation with Mrs Kemble was a shame.

“We felt that although Mrs Kemble was a lovely woman she appeared to struggle with areas of her work.”

She added: “The NHS and medical directorate were changing very rapidly. Mrs Kemble was very 'old school' and seemed to struggle with so much change.

“Mrs Kemble's role had always been to look after medical secretaries and she was good at that. However, when asked by Mr Power to work on other areas of her role, she would become stressed and would ask lots of questions.”

Of Mrs Gill, 47, from Ipswich, known as Ms Brightman at the time, she said: “Ms Brightman was often very blunt and rude to people. In my view, based on discussions with the trainees since Ms Brightman left, she was a bully to trainees.

“A number of the trainees have informed me that Ms Brightman would shout at them and was generally not very friendly. One of the trainees has told me that they left the Trust because of her.”

Mrs Gill, who succeeded Miss Higgins as Mr Power's personal assistant, said in cross-examining her: “I would never, ever bully a person. I was bullied myself as a child and I know what it was like to be bullied.”

Thomas Oxton, representing Mrs Kemble, put it to Ms Higgins that another witness, union representative Vicky Muller, had given evidence that she filed a bullying complaint against Mr Power herself.

Ms Higgins denied it was her complaint and said in her statement that Mr Power had “annoyed” her on one occasion but she believed this was par for the course in any working environment.

The compensation claims of Mrs Kemble and Mrs Gill relate to a period in 2006 following Mr Power's promotion to directorate manager on July 28, 2006.

The hearing continues.