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Farron claims victory over NHS gagging clauses

March 14, 2013 10:55 AM

Tim in WestminsterSouth Lakes MP Tim Farron has welcomed the news that the Secretary of State has banned gagging clauses in the NHS.

Tim had previously written to the Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt MP asking him to write to every NHS trust in the country and instruct them to not use these deals. Hundreds of whistleblowers have in the past been silenced by the clauses in their severance packages.

The health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the practice would end with immediate effect to help create a culture of "openness and transparency" across the NHS.

Staff leaving the health service will instead have a new legal right that allows them to speak out about issues in the public interest, such as death rates or poor care.

Over 500 'compromise agreements' were signed across 20 hospital trusts and 24 primary care trusts between March 2009 and March 2012. The Health Service Journal estimate that 80% of trusts have 'at least one compromise agreement' and that 98% of those agreements contained a confidentiality clause.

Ninety of the agreements were with clinicians and the average payout per agreement was £29,000. NHS organisations can also sign 'mutually agreed resignation payments'. According to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee over 200 requests were made to the Treasury to make special or mutually agreed resignation payments between April 2011 and the end of 2012. The range of these payouts is between £190,000 and £250,000.

Tim has called for an end to NHS confidentiality deals such as those used at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT).

UHMBT and its former chief executive, Tony Halsall, signed a confidentiality deal when Mr Halsall stepped down in February 2012. The deal prevents the disclosure of details of his departure, including whether he worked his six-month notice period and whether he was paid for it. The trust's interim chairman, Sir David Henshaw, told the North West Evening Mail that such agreements are common in both the public and private sectors and are "part of the legal structure of this country".

Tim said: "Today's announcement is good news. I have argued for the government to outlaw these clauses so I'm delighted that this will be happening. I think it's important that the public knows these things, and then the public can make a judgement as to whether what the trust did was right and whether what the NHS as a whole did was right."