Kent: Ambulance Chief Exec Leaves

The chief executive of the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has "left to pursue other interests''.

Paul Sutton took an agreed leave of absence after a damning report into a scheme that involved delaying sending ambulances until advisers had time to assess some calls coming through the 111 phone system.

It found the secret project, which did not have approval from board members, the 111 NHS helpline or commissioners, and up to 20,000 patients had ambulances delayed.

In a statement the trust said: "South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust announces that chief executive Paul Sutton has now left the trust to pursue other interests.

"The trust would like to thank Paul for his contribution to the developments and achievements of the trust over the past 10 years.

"The process for finding a permanent replacement will start immediately and will be subject to further announcements as appropriate. In the interim period, Geraint Davies will continue as acting chief executive.''

Under the controversial scheme, the ambulance trust gave itself up to 10 extra minutes to reassess what type of advice or treatment patients needed, and whether an ambulance was really necessary.

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

It was Mr Sutton who drove forward the idea of Red 2 calls being put through the pilot and he "now recognises'' that commissioners who approved the project may not have "fully understood'' its detail, it added.

Investigators also concluded that managing the trust's ambulance response times - as set by national NHS targets - was a "driver'' for the project.

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