Don't be taken in by ministerial hot air on their belief in local decision-making. The latest move after the Clostridium difficile deaths at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust demonstrates that soundbites, press releases and the irresistible urge to be seen to be doing something still take precedence over sensible government.

The furore over the large pay-off to former chief executive Rose Gibb is understandable - the idea of her being given thousands of pounds after mismanagement contributed to around 90 deaths is as palatable as a pilot being rewarded for crashing a plane.

But the response from the Department of Health is misguided.

NHS chief executive David Nicholson has now told trusts that, as well as being vetted by trust and strategic health authority remuneration committees and auditors, any 'novel and unusual' deals to get rid of a chief executive or director are also likely to be subjected to Treasury scrutiny.

This is not a sensible way to make decisions. It is an insult to trusts, SHAs and indeed auditors to suggest that they cannot come to an intelligent view.

Just like Gordon Brown's nationwide deep clean, it shows that when the going in the media gets tough, this government quickly defaults to a position of central interference.

Mr Nicholson has set great store by his promise to keep politicians off managers' backs. In his discussions with the health secretary he needs to take a tougher line on ministerial meddling.

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