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SECAmb chief executive resigns after urgent calls downgraded

The chief executive of South East Coast Ambulance Trust (SECAmb) has resigned after it was revealed that the trust secretly introduced a pilot protocol to delay replying to urgent 111 calls.

SECAmb announced the resignation yesterday of Paul Sutton, who had been on voluntary leave.

The trust’s chair, Tony Thorne, resigned in March after a review by Deloitte found that “fundamental failings in governance” meant the pilot was implemented without proper oversight.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “The public rightly expects that those in senior leadership positions show integrity and honesty at all times, and are held accountable for their actions, as per the Nolan Principles of conduct in civic office. The conduct of the leaders at SECAmb falls far short of the standards that the public expects from those appointed into such key roles.

“Any decision that downgrades urgent category ambulance calls in order to massage performance targets is deplorable, and undermines the confidence that the public places in NHS leaders. This scheme was dangerous and the secretive decision to implement it demonstrates exceptionally poor decision making. It is right that the leaders of SECAmb are held responsible for their actions.”

She repeated calls for SECAmb to apologise and said that the NHS must “ensure this never occurs again at any trust”.

In a statement on its website, SECAmb said Sutton had left “to pursue other interests” and added “the trust would like to thank Paul for his contribution to the developments and achievements of the trust over the past 10 years”.

Geraint Davies has now been appointed as interim chief executive.

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