More than 40 chief executives have seen their contracts terminated over the past five years and with many currently seeking to gain work or having returned to work in the NHS, few are willing to talk about their experiences.However, Andrew Wall, who lost his job as chief executive of Bath HA in 1992 because of reorganisation, is open about the financial compensation he received.

'In my own case when I came to the point where I was told I was not acceptable for the new job, I said, 'OK, I have two-and a half years to run on my contract. Kindly pay me the rest of the money.' They did so and gave me£180,000, 'says Mr Wall, who is now a visiting senior fellow at Birmingham University's health services management centre.

Though his severance package appeared uncontentious, and was agreed at regional health authority level, problems emerged two years later.

'The auditors refused to pass the accounts on the grounds that it was an invalid payment, so I got a letter from the chief executive of Wiltshire HA, which had assumed the work of Bath HA, asking me to send back£180,000.To begin with, I had paid£60,000 in tax on that sum so I wouldn't have owed£180,000, and I had only accepted the payment on the grounds that it was proper. If it was ultra viresI would have sought another solution such as a secondment. I wrote back saying this and I have yet to receive a reply.'