News : Ambulance Chiefs Set to Quit After 111 Helpline Scandal
East Sussex, UK, March 15, 2016 -- Two bosses of a scandal-hit ambulance trust are to leave ahead of a damning report into claims that lives were put at risk by the 111 helpline.
The chair of South East Coast Ambulance Service Tony Thorne has resigned while chief executive Paul Sutton is to take a ‘leave of absence’.
Their departures come ahead of a report by the regulator Monitor – expected within days – into a pilot in which some patients were made to wait ten minutes longer for help.
Under the policy, tested last winter, patients who had initially called 111 – rather than 999 – were sent back to call centre staff to be ‘reassessed’, to check they really needed ambulances.
Whistleblowers have claimed it led to the deaths of several patients although the trust has denied this.
But Mr Thorne has been in the post of chair for only six months and his departure followed a crisis meeting with other senior managers.
Sources said Mr Sutton, who has been on unexplained annual leave since last Monday, was expected to resign today.
Staff were told seven days ago that he was ‘just on annual leave for a week’ but he was still absent yesterday.
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South East Coast Ambulance Service covers around 4.5million patients in Kent, Surrey, Sussex and North East Hampshire.
Under a two-month pilot introduced in December 2014, patients were made to wait ten minutes longer for an ambulance if they had dialled 111 rather than 999.
They included those classified as ‘red 2’, the second most serious, with suspected fits, strokes and breathing difficulties.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Published: Wednesday, March 16, 2016