HSE chief executive Paul Reid said Department of Health recordings contained “unwarranted slurs” on health service staff

HSE chief Paul Reid accused the Department of Health of “unwarranted slurs” on his staff in a row over leaked recordings of department meetings.

Mr Reid said it was “beyond belief” that a 45-minute meeting had discussed the HSE in such a “disparaging and damaging manner”.

In a message to Department of Health Secretary General Robert Watt, the outgoing CEO of the Health Service Executive fumed over the lack of “any basic standards of respect” for colleagues which were revealed by the tapes.

The furious email followed newspaper reports based on secret recordings of meetings of department staff which were highly critical of the HSE.

They contained references to “fake targets”, concerns about the health service’s “financial sloppiness”, and the credibility of health budgets.

On the day the meetings were first reported, Paul Reid directly emailed Robert Watt to say that what had emerged was “extremely disappointing and frustrating”.

Mr Reid said they had jointly agreed an approach on recruitment and the treatment of the HSE financial accounts for last year.

He wrote: “The fact that a 45-minute meeting appears to have been dominated by such commentary is beyond belief.”

Later, he said: “Any basic standards of respect for colleagues or decent management behaviours appear to be lacking, by quoted attendees at the referenced meeting.

“This is at complete odds with the good collaboration that goes on between our teams, not least of all over the past two years in response to Covid.”

Mr Reid said he appreciated that telephone calls had been made the day before by department staff to apologise about what was about to be reported.

He also said that the chairman of the HSE had been in touch to express the “frustrations” of the board of what had been made public.

Mr Reid added: “I do take my duty of care for staff seriously. Therefore, I would appreciate your views as to how it can be arranged for a full and complete retraction of these remarks and inferences made. Left as they are, they leave utterly unwarranted slurs on reputations.”