A £430m new 'supertrust' this week recruited what is thought to be the country's highest-paid chief executive. David Johnson, once a hospital porter, will head Leeds Teaching Hospitals trust. The post carries 'a remuneration package' of around £125,000.

The trust came into being on 1 April following the merger of St James' and Seacroft University Hospital trust and United Leeds Teaching Hospitals trust.

Mr Johnson, 41, is a career NHS manager whose first taste of the health service was as a hospital porter in Sheffield. He was chief executive of St James' and was long tipped by insiders as front-runner for the merged post.

In a letter to staff this week, he sought to allay concerns that his past links might lead him to show 'favouritism'.

He said that merging the two organisations would be a 'complex and challenging task' and would mean overcoming 'sometimes unhelpful rivalries'.

The merger would only be counted a success when more efficient and effective use of resources brought benefits to patients, he said.

'I am absolutely committed to taking the best from the former organisations and that ability, not history, will be the determining factor in any competition for posts, ' Mr Johnson said.

Mr Johnson pledged a 'fair and open' management approach, based on consultation.

Trust chair Bill Kilgallon said Mr Johnson was the 'unanimous choice' of the appointments panel. Four candidates - all chief executives - were interviewed.

Mr Johnson said: 'I believe there is now a unique opportunity for Leeds to become home to one of the world's leading healthcare institutions.'

Mr Johnson has been chief executive of St James' since 1992.