NHS chief Sir David Nicholson is facing renewed calls to resign from his post after the revelation nearly £15 million has been spent on preventing whistle-blowers from speaking out.
Sir David has so far held onto his job despite being in charge throughout the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust scandal, which led to the otherwise preventable deaths of more than 1,200 patients.
However, Conservative MP Steve Barclay uncovered figures that show £14.7 million of taxpayer's money - equivalent to the annual wage bill for almost 750 nurses - was spent on 598 'special severance payments' over a three-year period.
The vast majority of these contained gagging orders aimed at silencing whistle-blowers.
Mr Barclay, the MP for north-east Cambridgeshire, said: "It means that hundreds of potential whistle-blowers may have been prevented from speaking out for fear of legal action, at a total cost to the taxpayer of almost £15 million."
Just last week, health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned the NHS it must encourage a situation whereby staff are not afraid to speak out about poor standards of care.
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