Axed NHS Tayside chief on full pay while off sick

The axed chief executive of a health board embroiled in a row over mis-use of charity cash could return to work in a new role, the head of NHS Scotland has hinted.
Shona Robison. Picture: Ian RutherfordShona Robison. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Shona Robison. Picture: Ian Rutherford

MSPs heard yesterday that Lesley McLay remains on full pay while on sick leave which started the day after being stripped of her chief executive status on NHS Tayside by Shona Robison over the charity cash row. NHS Scotland boss Paul Gray told Holyrood’s public audit committee that contact has been made with Ms McLay’s representatives over her future, but hinted a return to work in a different role may be a possibility.

Former health secretary Alex Neil said yesterday the situation smacks of special treatment for senior NHS staff. Ms McLay was stripped of her “accountable officer” status when it emerged that the board wrongly used charity endowment cash for IT purposes, instead of frontline healthcare.

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Mr Gray said Ms McLay “doesn’t have a job today because she is off sick”.

The former chief executive is on full pay and can remain on sick leave for up to a year before her contract is terminated, MSPs heard.

“When she is able to return to work then we will agree with her what her future employment status should be,” Mr Gray said.

He added: “I don’t yet know what’s going to happen.”

Mr Neil said: “If I am a nurse and I’m not up to the job and I’m told I’m not up to the job and I’m told I’m going to be dismissed as a nurse, I’m not offered any alternative employment in the national health service. Does this great rule just apply to chief executives?”

He added: “Is it not one rule for chief executives and another rule for everybody else?”

Mr Gray insisted that any NHS worker who goes through a disciplinary process and is dismissed is in a different situation from someone, like Ms McLay, who was told her “accountable officer status is taken away.”

“Even if someone does go through a process it is not impossible for them to be offered another role at a different level elsewhere in the service,” he said.

“I do know of situations in which an employee who has not been able to fulfill one role has nevertheless been offered an alternative role that better meets their skills.”

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The committee heard that Ms McLay could be off sick for up to a year before her contract is terminated. Mr Neil added that such cases create cynicism among other NHS staff “further down the rung”.

He added: “They see senior people getting what they would see as favourable treatment.”