NHS Tayside health board chief quits three months after charity cash scandal

Professor John Connell and Lesley McLay - both have now left NHS Tayside (Steve MacDougall / DC Thomson)

THE chief executive of a scandal-hit health board has left her job – after three months on sick leave.

Lesley McLay left her £125,000 role at NHS Tayside on Tuesday but bosses are refusing to say if she got a payoff.

She has not been at work since April after it was revealed the board bent its own rules to use charitable donations to pay for essential services.

NHS Tayside yesterday confirmed she has now left the organisation but refused to reveal any severance package.

A number of other chief executives have left failing health boards with six-figure pay outs in recent years and Jenny Marra, convenor of Holyrood’s public audit committee, yesterday said there should be no “golden goodbye” for Ms McLay.

The Labour MSP said: “The committee could not have been clearer as we worked through the mess that has been created at NHS Tayside that there should be no golden goodbyes or golden handshakes for people leaving the health board who helped to put it in such a poor condition.

“Lesley McLay was at the helm of the organisation when it was getting into difficulty and we were of the view that any generous severance package would be wholly inappropriate.

“We need greater clarity from NHS Tayside and if it turns out there has been some form of golden handshake then we will pursue this matter through the committee.”

Earlier this year it emerged that NHS Tayside took more than £2 million from its endowment fund – which is made up of donations from the public or bequests in wills – to cover running costs such as IT systems.

The health board, which was bailed out with a Scottish Government loan of £33.2m in 2016-17, was reported to have used the endowment fund when “faced with a funding deficit” in 2013/14.

Public spending watchdog Audit Scotland has delivered a series of damning verdicts on NHS Tayside’s finances and the running of the health board, which Ms McLay – a former nurse – took over in 2014.

The chairman of NHS Tayside, Professor John Connell, said his board had taken charge of a difficult situation and the endowment money was spent before he took up his role as chairman.

He stood down after Health Secretary Shona Robison wrote to him asking him to resign. She also said Ms McLay’s position was untenable.

The focus on any form of severance deal for Ms McLay comes as other NHS chief executives received substantial payouts when they left under controversial circumstances in recent years.

Richard Carey pocketed a £255,789 “compensation payment” when he retired from NHS Grampian in 2014 after being embroiled in a staffing controversy, while James Barbour received £100,000 when he left NHS Lothian in 2012 just a month after the board was criticised by then Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon for manipulating waiting times.

Next month public spending watchdog Audit Scotland is expected to deliver its latest report on NHS Tayside, which is now run by Malcolm Wright, who is also chief executive of NHS Grampian but due to retire in December.

NHS Tayside said: “Lesley McLay, former Chief Executive, left the board on July 31 2018.”