NHS Tayside chief executive Lesley McLay has been forced out in wake of scandal over charity cash spent on IT systems. 

The Scottish Government confirmed that Malcolm Wright, the chief executive of NHS Grampian, had been appointed as acting chief executive in her place.

John Brown, who is currently chair of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, will take on the role of interim chairman of NHS Tayside until a permanent chair can be appointed. It follows the resignation of Professor John Connell. 

Read more: NHS Tayside axed own rules to use charity cash for IT systems

NHS Scotland Chief Executive, Paul Gray, said: “As the Cabinet Secretary made clear, a change of leadership was needed within NHS Tayside to maintain public confidence.

“These appointments will provide stability to the Board and enhance financial scrutiny, and their considerable experience in management and leading change will bring huge benefits. Most importantly, it will ensure that patient safety continues to be at the very heart of their work.

“I will be going to NHS Tayside on Monday to meet the Board, and thank them for their continued efforts throughout this challenging time.”

Analysis: Tayside case raises wider questions about how health boards spent their charity funds 

Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “I am pleased to approve the appointment of John Brown, and welcome the appointment of Malcolm Wright.

“Mr Brown already chairs a large Health Board and is a chartered management accountant, with significant experience in leading change. Mr Wright is a very experienced NHS Chief Executive, and has already been involved in a number of successful Board transformations. 

“I am confident that their appointments will bring a very valuable stability to the Board.”

It came hours after Prof Connell resigned after coming under pressure from Ms Robison to step down.

In a statement about his resignation, Prof Connell said it had been "an absolute privilege" to lead the health board.

He said: "I have always maintained a focus on safe patient care and ensuring staff are supported to deliver that at all times.

"I am very pleased that this has not been compromised during a difficult financial period."

Prof Connell said NHS Tayside was "on the correct course to transform its services".

Ms Robison welcomed the resignation of Prof John Connell, describing it as the "right decision".

Ms Robison has also described chief executive Lesley McLay’s position as “untenable” and said the "best course of action will be for her to step down". 

Neither NHS Tayside nor Ms McLay have commented since her replacement was announced. 

The Scottish Government is exercising “ministerial powers of intervention” and moving NHS Tayside to the highest level of escalation after an outcry over how charity cash was spent.

READ MORE: NHS Tayside axed own rules to use charity cash to pay for new IT system after running out of money

The health board, which was bailed out with a Scottish Government loan of £33.2 million in 2016/17, took £2.7 million from the endowment fund when “faced with a funding deficit” in 2013/14.

Of this, £2.3m was used for IT systems that should have been funded by eHealth money already allocated to the health board by the Scottish Government.  

NHS Tayside temporarily suspended its constitution to allow the cash transfer from the endowment fund into general expenditure to happen, as the money was going to retrospectively fund projects already approved by the board. This was in breach of the health board's own code.

Professor Connell, who took up his position as chairman in 2015, said his “present understanding” was that the endowment funds were used “in the manner that would be intended” but wanted assurances on whether it was correct for money to be given to projects previously approved in the core budget.

READ MORE: NHS Tayside axed own rules to use charity cash to pay for new IT system after running out of money

Ms Robison said the use of charity funds “should not have happened” and an external review will look into what she described as a “serious state of affairs”.

She said: “When the public donate to this fund they expect it to be used for the right causes.

“At my request, the chief executive of NHS Scotland has written to every NHS board chair seeking assurance that endowment monies are being spent for the correct purposes.”

Meanwhile, the Herald can also reveal that cash from Tayside's charity fund was handed over to a community biking project, Mike’s Bikes, run by a former drug addict.

The organiser, Mike Rennie, subsequently vanished with no record of how the money - understood to be around £1200 - was used.

The minutes of a meeting of the Board of Trustees in October 2017 note that members were advised against legal action for breach of contract on the grounds that it would be too expensive and result in “reputational damage” to NHS Tayside.