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Barrow and Furness MP calls Morecambe Bay secret pay deal "shameful"

Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust Photo: Press Association

A "secret" deal to carry on paying an NHS boss his £150,000 salary for a year after he stepped down has been described as "shameful" by the local MP.

Tony Halsall, former chief executive of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust stepped down in February 2012 to leave to work on secondment for the NHS Confederation.

The trust is subject to an on-going police investigation into the care given to mothers and babies at the maternity unit of Furness General Hospital in Barrow.

Mr Halsall continued to collect his annual salary of £150,606 after leaving the trust and will now be given an extra £75,000 in lieu of notice.

Details of the deal were not made public by the Trust until today who said a confidentially agreement had prevented them from making the details known.

John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness, said: "Covering up the fact that this former chief executive remained on the books and continued in secret to claim a hefty salary from local health coffers is shameful act unworthy of our National Health Service.

"The managers of the time may try to say that a secondment was the easiest way to ensure a swift change could be made, but whether or not that is true their failure to be straight with the public is inexcusable.

"And this attempt to bury the news on budget day suggests the new management team have not learnt the lessons of the past."

"The Government promised openness on the NHS but are presiding over shabby cover ups.

"Everyone involved in this sorry affair - including government ministers - should make clear what they knew, and when, and face the anger of local people who want their taxes spent on patient care not secret deals."

– John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness

Under the agreement Mr Halsall, who resigned on February, 24, 2012, also retained his existing benefits, including a lease car, and the provision of career management advice to the value of #5,000.

He is now being given six months' salary in lieu of notice to terminate his contract.

John Cowdall, chairman of the Trust, said: "It has been decided at the end of the secondment with the NHS Confederation that the Trust will pay Mr Halsall for notice, which is due under the terms of the legal agreement concluded with him in February 2012. This will end his employment with the Trust. Mr Halsall is entitled under his existing agreement to six months' notice or salary in lieu of notice.

"The compromise agreement that he and the Trust signed in February 2012 contained a confidentiality clause which is standard when these agreements are negotiated. Such a clause prevented both the Trust and Mr Halsall from revealing any details of the agreement.

"I am aware that this clause has caused a great deal of disquiet in the minds of many individuals, including representatives of the media.

"It is for this reason that I am making public the terms of the severance arrangements that have applied. I would like to stress that Mr Halsall has received no more than his contractual entitlement. Notice periods of six months are common for appointments at this level and enable employers to advertise for and recruit a successor.

"The financial arrangements under which Mr Halsall was seconded to the NHS Confederation may well attract criticism.

"I would simply state that those arrangements facilitated the departure of the former Chief Executive and avoided the potential for a long drawn out dispute that would have been expensive and time consuming and also, enabled the Trust to move quickly to restructure the Board and recruit a new Chief Executive."