The Department of Health has scented blood over blocking pay-offs for chief executives quitting in the wake of a scandal.

Having been vindicated by the High Court in blocking the severance package for the disgraced Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells trust chief executive Rose Gibb, ministers’ latest quarry is departing Mid Staffordshire foundation trust chief executive Martin Yeates.

Mr Yeates, who was suspended, has now quit and been given six months’ pay, which the trust claims is his legal entitlement.

But health minister Ben Bradshaw is in full cry, attacking the trust for not hauling Mr Yeates through its disciplinary procedures for presiding over a hospital where receptionists carried out accident and emergency triage and patients whose operations were cancelled were left “nil by mouth” for days.

He has threatened ministerial intervention.

The government is determined to be seen to uphold its promise that there will be no reward for failure in the NHS. Mr Bradshaw’s tough talk makes clear that it is not just enhanced pay-offs that are under attack; ministers are not even prepared to allow chief executives to take the pearl-handled revolver option in exchange for a few months’ salary.