The outgoing head of the NHS has come under fire after posting a spoof video mocking a senior colleague and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.
NHS boss Sir David Nicholson faced MPs again today to answer questions on NHS gagging order payments to 52 staff.
Sir David Nicholson is to retire. His departure comes three months after the critical report into unnecessary deaths at Stafford Hospital.
In March, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt banned the use of gagging clauses in compromise agreements.
The move followed calls for a culture of "openness and transparency" in the NHS after the Mid Staffordshire scandal in which as many as 1,200 patients are thought to have died.
However a Freedom of Information Act request has today revealed that hospitals have spent £2 million on top of the £15m on more than 50 gagging orders.
But the government says that the March figures did not include "judicially mediated" settlements, meaning that the Government had no chance to block them.
The Department of Health said the system had been changed so that all severance payments were properly scrutinised.
A spokesman said: "Judicial mediation payments do not mean that someone is gagged - it is a way of resolving a dispute and suitable cases for this are decided on by a judge.
"The Department did not collect data on these payments prior to February 2013.
"This has now changed - all non-contractual severance payments, whether via judicial mediation or another means, need to be scrutinised by a national body.
"Judicial mediation payments cannot prevent staff from speaking out about matters on patient safety or in the public interest."
In response to the revelations that hospitals have spent £2 million on more than 50 gagging orders preventing staff speaking out, the Department of Health have said:
– A Department of Health spokesman
NHS staff are protected by the law, regardless of when their payment was made and whether or not it was via judicial payment or any other means.
The Health Secretary has been absolutely clear that "gagging" is illegal and it will not be tolerated.
The Daily Telegraph has reported that at least 52 staff have been silenced using the orders since 2008, some of which cost as much as £500,000.
Tory MP Steve Barclay, who obtained the figures, has called for Sir David Nicholson, the chief executive of NHS England, to stand down:
It is simply not plausible that the man who was supposed to be running the NHS was seemingly unaware that employees threatening to speak out were being offered golden goodbyes in return for a vow of silence.
The culture in the NHS needs to change, he has to stand down now. What patient safety concerns have been covered up (by these gagging orders)? How many lives have been put at risk?
A Tory MP has called for the chief executive of NHS England to stand down following revelations hospitals have spent £2 million on gagging orders on staff.
Hospitals have spent £2 million on more than 50 gagging orders preventing staff speaking out, a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed.
Steve Barclay has accused NHS chief Sir David Nicholson of either failing to ask questions about the orders or being "complicit in a cover-up".
Sir David will retire as NHS England's chief executive next year but Mr Barclay said he should stand down now because the culture in the health service had to change.
The Daily Telegraph reports that at least 52 staff have been silenced using the orders since 2008, some of which cost as much as £500,000. All are thought to contain confidentiality clauses.
Outgoing NHS boss Sir David Nicholson appears to have launched a veiled attack at Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt after he criticised the "demonisation" of GPs.
Mr Hunt has repeatedly said that changes to the GP contract in 2004 have contributed to the growing A&E crisis across England.
Sir David told the Health Service Journal: "I am a big fan of general practice and I think the way sometimes it is demonised is very bad, and very bad for patients."
He is retiring from his role as chief executive of NHS England in March next year.
Cure the NHS campaigner Julie Bailey said NHS boss Sir David Nicholson had not accepted responsibility for what happened at Stafford and is simply "waiting for his retirement".
"We're disappointed that he's not going immediately to be honest", she said, "this man presided over the biggest disaster in the history of the NHS, he'll be leaving with a huge pension pot and with his knighthood intact but he'll be going eventually and then we can start to cure the NHS."
The Telegraph claims that retiring NHS boss David Nicholson will leave with a £2 million pension pot.
The paper says that Sir David, 57: "earns £290,000 a year including performance bonuses and “benefits in kind”, has also been criticised over his expenses claims, with almost £50,000 claimed during 2011-12 in travel expenses."
The Head of the NHS in England, Sir David Nicholson, has said he will retire early next year.
Sir David oversaw one of the service's worst ever scandals in Mid-Staffordshire, where he admitted to personal failings - but at the time he resisted calls to resign.One MP said today, she was 'sickened' that he will now be able to leave on his own terms.
Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports:
The letter announcing his retirement of Sir David Nicholson suggests he planned his departure more than a month-and-a-half ago.
Although it is dated May 21, one paragraph says: "In getting ourselves ready for the 1 April 2013 we should..." which implies that the letter was drafted before April 1 - the day that the controversial NHS reforms were implemented.
Sir David goes on to say that he has stayed in the role to oversee NHS reforms come into place.
He thanks NHS England's chair Professor Sir Malcolm Grant for support and understanding "with regard to the complexity of my role".
Professor Grant replied: "Thank you for your letter conveying your intention to retire as CEO of NHS England. I was sorry but not surprised to have it.
"Your career within the NHS over 35 years has been exceptional, and your leadership through the radical changes of the past two years has been fundamental to their success."