A trust has reached an “amicable resolution” with a former chief executive who was sacked after whistleblowing to NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson about pressure to meet government targets.

United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust has refused to say whether a financial settlement was reached with Gary Walker, who was sacked early last year. The case had been expected to be heard at an employment tribunal last week.

But former trust chairman David Bowles - who went public with his concern that East Midlands Strategic Health Authority wanted to put targets before patient safety in the summer of 2009 - suggested there had been a settlement and accused the trust of “gagging people”.

“One would like to think the Public Accounts Committee would be shocked at the spending of public money to gag people in this way,” he said.

“The openness and transparency that the employment tribunal would have brought to this would have been very beneficial to the NHS.

“The NHS needs more people who are prepared to stand up against the system and say patient safety comes first,” he said. “But it continues to behave in this way. I just wonder whether ULHT and the SHA have taken any notice of  what Mr Lansley was saying about whistleblowers recently.” Health secretary Andrew Lansley has proposed incorporating protection for whistleblowers in the NHS Constitution.

Mr Bowles’ resignation in 2009 led to an independent investigation which cleared the SHA of bullying. He and the board had refused to guarantee the 18 week referral-to-treatment time due to exceptional high emergency demand in 2009.

Mr Walker went on sick leave when Mr Bowles resigned. The trust later started disciplinary action against him and he was sacked in February 2010 for swearing in meetings.

Mr Walker - who is believed not to have been able to get another job in the NHS since his high-profile sacking - then launched an employment tribunal case against the trust.

A hearing was expected last week but the case has now been resolved, according to the trust. It said there was an agreement that neither side should comment further.

In the past year, the Care Quality Commission has raised concerns about care at ULH and has issued warning notices. This week it said there was a risk of patients being exposed to poor care at one of the hospitals within the group.