Steve in PAC (close up)

Yesterday I questioned government officials about the use of gagging clauses and large severance payments in the public sector.

There has been widespread concern about money – often hundreds of thousands of pounds – paid to public sector workers, particularly in the NHS.  This has been used to both gag whistleblowers who have been raising concerns about safety and reward senior managers who have dramatically failed.

Whistleblowers include Gary Walker, former chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust, who was dismissed with a payoff after he raised concerns about the effects hospital targets were having on patients, and Hilary Cass, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who was gagged by Great Ormond Street Hospital after warning managers about risks to patients.

Failed managers who have been paid off include Tony Halsall, former Chief Executive of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.  At least eight mothers and babies died unnecessarily at the Trust, but when Mr Halsall resigned the hospital continued to pay his £150,000 per year salary for 18 months.

I have consistently pointed out this abuse of taxpayers’ money on the Public Accounts Committee.  I used the hearing on Wednesday to question Treasury officials who sign off these payments and urge them to challenge other public bodies about whether this is a good use of money.

For too long, large sums of taxpayers’ money have been used to silence those raising concerns and reward failed managers.  It is time this stops.

A copy of the transcript can be found here:  I asked questions 74-118, 126-127 and 166.

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