Secamb boss Paul Sutton leaves post after 111 scandal

Paul Sutton
Image caption Chief Executive Paul Sutton is to 'pursue other interests'

The chief executive of a scandal-hit NHS trust which came under intense scrutiny over emergency callouts has left his job.

Paul Sutton, who had been on a leave of absence from South East Coast Ambulance Service (Secamb), will now "pursue other interests".

Last year, it emerged the trust ran a secret and controversial pilot which delayed sending help for some calls.

A review said failings in how the trust was run led to the "high risk" project.

The pilot did not have approval from board members, the 111 NHS helpline or commissioners.

Up to 20,000 patients had their ambulances delayed.

How call-handling was changed

Secamb provides NHS 111 services across the region and responds to 999 calls.

Some 111 calls were transferred to the 999 system to give Secamb more time for more urgent calls.

The calls affected were in the second most serious category - Category A Red 2 - which covers conditions like strokes or fits but which are less critical than where people are non responsive.

Under NHS rules, calls designated as life-threatening are supposed to receive an ambulance response within eight minutes.

The trust allowed itself an extra 10 minutes to deal with some calls by "re-triaging" patients in the 999 system.

Secamb said the process for finding a permanent replacement would start immediately and in the interim period, Geraint Davies would continue as acting chief executive.

Its chairman, Tony Thorne, resigned as the report by Deloitte was released.

The review said there was a strong suggestion of an "intentional effort by members of the executive team to present their scheme in a positive light despite its governance failings and risks."

And it said: "The CEO made the ultimate decision to proceed with the pilot and played a critical leadership role throughout".

Patient safety

Image copyright SECAMB
Image caption The review said the CEO made the ultimate decision to proceed with the pilot

Peter Kyle, MP for Hove and Portslade, paid tribute to the professionalism of ambulance staff "from the frontline to the top".

He said he would continue to focus his attention "on making sure Secamb implements the reforms to the way it is governed and managed to ensure patient safety into the future".

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients' Association, said: "Any decision that downgrades urgent category ambulance calls in order to massage performance targets is deplorable.

"This scheme was dangerous... It is right that the leaders of Secamb are held responsible for their actions.

"The trust should apologise to all those affected and the NHS should ensure this never occurs again at any trust."

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