The Curious Case of Kathryn Magson

Besides Dr Rosalind Ranson, the other main figure in the tribunal was arguably her former boss, the former interim CEO of the DHSC Kathryn Magson.

We’ll get into her evidence in a bit, but even during the tribunal itself, it appeared that Miss Magson’s role wasn’t entirely clear.

In evidence given by Chief Secretary Will Greenhow, he said that Miss Magson was an employee of the island’s Public Service Commission.

However, this didn’t tally with previous statements from the government and Miss Magson told the tribunal herself this wasn’t true. Miss Magson told the tribunal that she was still employed by the NHS in the UK and that had been seconded by the Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group, where she was CEO. While the original plan was for Miss Magson to be on the island three days a week, this changed during the pandemic and it was often noted by politicians and journalists that, due to travel restrictions imposed by the government, she was not on the island during the height of Covid.

The tribunal, chaired by Douglas Stewart, said of this: ‘​​Whilst not doubting Mr Greenhow’s evidence, legally it seemed to be a curious position because Miss Magson had explained that she had retained her UK NHS status for continuity of her pension arrangement. This inferred that she continued to be employed and paid by them whilst seconded. Presumably, Herts Valley was reimbursed by the Manx Treasury. However, nothing turned on this contractual arrangement.

‘Miss Magson also had a distinguished career behind her with particular experience in transformation within the UK’s Health Service. The DHSC had need of her considerable experience to lead them through the island’s transformation process.’

A Single Truth

During the tribunal, it was acknowledged by Karen Malone, who was then the deputy DHSC CEO and is now chief exec in her own right, that the island’s approach to the pandemic was always going to be problematic.

The report says: ‘Under pressure, in a novel and unprecedented situation, the medical and clinical advice was being channelled through a command structure to Miss Kathryn Magson, as the CEO and ultimately to the politicians. Although experienced in the health sector, Miss Magson was not medically trained but a much greater handicap was that, due to Covid-19, she was off-island from 13th March 2020 until July 2021.

‘Mrs Malone at MAL/49 (page 4759) referred to tension flowing from Miss Magson’s “desire for a single version of the truth” and the professional duty of Dr Ranson to ensure that the best advice available from the medical profession reached the politicians. During the pandemic, Dr Ranson, supported by her specially formed groups of the island’s doctors and consultants, felt it necessary to raise serious concerns seeking to protect the health and welfare of the island’s population. The command structure insisted upon by Miss Magson led to fears and concerns that this medical resource and its expert professional advice were not reaching the top political levels. In turn, that led to issues between Miss Magson and Dr Ranson, who was at the vanguard of the professionals and fighting their corner to be heard and of assistance.’

Actions Against Dr Ranson

One of the central focuses of the tribunal was Miss Magson’s treatment of Dr Ranson. The panel says that ‘as 2020 moved forward, the drip-drip of challenges and of certain protected disclosures made by Dr Ranson had led to Miss Magson becoming increasingly frustrated and irritated with Dr Ranson’. And adds: ‘That had manifested itself in her actions and deliberate behaviour towards Dr Ranson which led to certain detriments in consequence.’

The tribunal listed detriments suffered by Dr Ranson included Miss Magson refusing her time to eat or go to the toilet between meetings, refusing to allow her to send a deputy to a meeting in order to attend an orchestral practice (something the tribunal considered to be ‘vindictive and unreasonable‘), ordering the removal of a member of staff who was designated to support Dr Ranson and shifting blame for a report not being done on time. 

Witness Credibility

In his remarks to the tribunal, Mr Boyd, who represented the DHSC said of Miss Magson: ‘As a very credible witness. She was always very clear and to the point in her responses. She answered questions in a straightforward manner, and often accepted points that may not be entirely positive towards the Respondent’s case.’

However, the tribunal’s report says that ‘the panel could not agree with Mr Boyd’s assessment of Miss Magson and her evidence’. In essence, they didn’t find her testimony to be truthful.

Mr Segal, representing Dr Ranson, highlighted concerns about Miss Magson’s evidence, which the tribunal said it ‘could only agree’. 

The report adds: ‘He [Mr Segal] submitted that she had constructed an inherently implausible narrative that she had, at all times, acted professionally, objectively and supportively of Dr Ranson. In her determination to stick to that narrative in her oral evidence, it had meant that she had refused on one occasion to answer a question, even when put to her three times about what had been “time-critical” for discussion during the 4- hour-39 minutes Teams Meeting on 17th November 2020.

‘Mr Segal submitted that Miss Magson had refused to accept any fault even where it was obvious. He alluded to text messages that had emerged between herself and Mrs Malone. These had been written in unprofessional terms, something Miss Magson would not concede – even although Mrs Malone had been prepared to do so.’

Mr Segal also later submitted to the tribunal that Miss Magson was ‘both a liar and vindictive’. The tribunal itself says it ‘had to criticise Miss Magson for much of the tribulations and unhappiness that Dr Ranson had to endure’. And they added: ‘Consistent with the submissions of Mr Segal, the Tribunal, by a considerable margin, preferred the evidence of Dr Ranson to that of Miss Magson.’

Long Hours and Extraordinary Circumstances

However, while the tribunal had issues with Miss Magson’s evidence, it does note that she ‘fulfilled her role as CEO in extraordinarily difficult circumstances’. It adds: ‘Her Day-Books and the documentation showed that overall, other than relating to Dr Ranson, she did a remarkable job involving an endless diet of major decisions and problems which she had to handle remotely by phone, email, messaging or using Microsoft Teams.’

The tribunal also noted the long hours worked by everyone in the DHSC and said that while much of her work was ‘laudable’ and praised her central role in achieving the transition to Manx Care against the backdrop of the pandemic. 

However, the report adds that ‘it is unfortunate that the Tribunal has had to be so critical about: Her dealing with Dr Ranson; Her failings regarding document disclosure; And her credibility on significant aspect of her evidence’. 

A Disservice

The tribunal adds: ‘The greatest dis-service that Miss Magson achieved was preventing the island from the benefit of Dr Ranson’s continued employment once Manx Care was operational. That is not to denigrate the new MD appointed. However, such appointment and the added burden of paying for two Medical Directors from 1st April 2021 until Dr Ranson’s employment ended in January 2022 was needless and wasteful.

‘Distilled to its core elements, the evidence turned mainly on the work, behaviour and interaction between Dr Ranson and Miss Magson as evidenced from the volumes of contemporaneous documents. Adverse inferences had to be drawn in certain aspects of the evidence, not least where on certain occasions, Miss Magson’s evidence was inconsistent with that of Mrs Cope / Mr Foster, Dr Ranson or others.’

Miss Magson no longer works on the island, with her secondment ending earlier this year, she was replaced by her former deputy CEO Karen Malone.

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