Board and senior managers cannot be allowed to sweep scandal under the carpet says GMB
GMB, the union for ambulance staff, commented on the press release issued by SECAMB NHS Trust on 31 May about the departure of the Chief Executive Paul Sutton in the wake of the scandal about patient response delays. (See notes to editors for copy of the story on Press Association dated 31st May 2016).
Paul Maloney, GMB regional secretary, said "GMB members and the public will want to know what steps the board of SECAMB has taken to hold executives to account for this terrible affair where the public was put at risk for completely unjustified reasons.
GMB members and the public are flabbergasted that such a serious matter has now disappeared into a room of smoke and mirrors.
GMB consider that there should be an inquiry by the House of Commons Health Select Committee into how the board and the regulator have dealt with the aftermath of the scandal and how executives have been held to account for this. It cannot be swept under the carpet.
Does the trust really believe that such a trivial statement sweeping this serious matter will satisfy the public anger?"
Contact: Charles Harrity on 07977 518042 or Paul Maloney on 07801 343839 or GMB press office on 07739 182691 or 07970 863411
Notes to editors
Copy of story on Press Association dated 31st May 2016.
AMBULANCE CHIEF LEAVES AFTER SCANDAL OVER PATIENT RESPONSE DELAYS
By Jane Kirby, Press Association Health Editor
The chief executive of a scandal-hit ambulance trust, whose salary, pension and benefits package was worth more than #255,000 a year, has left his post.
Paul Sutton, who led South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust, has "left to pursue other interests", the trust said in a statement.
He had been on an agreed leave of absence after a damning report in March found "fundamental failings" over a scheme to delay ambulances to patients.
The secret project was "high risk" and 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 on Tuesday, 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."
The trust's chairman, Tony Thorne, confirmed his resignation in March.
The annual accounts for the trust in 2014/15 show Mr Sutton received a salary of #160,000 to #165,000, plus #4,900 in other benefits and more than #90,000 in pension-related benefits.
His total package for the year was worth #255,000 to #260,000.
Mr Thorne was paid a salary of #40,000 to #45,000.
The Deloitte review in March 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.
Executives ran their project - without approval - to delay sending ambulances until advisers had time to assess some calls coming through the 111 telephone system.
National rules say 75% of Category A Red 2 calls should have an emergency response at the scene within eight minutes.
These calls are for conditions regarded as serious, such as strokes or fits.
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.
But patients were kept in the dark about the project, as were 111 call handlers and the trust's board.
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.
In one conference call chaired by Mr Sutton in which Red 2 calls were added to the project, "objections were raised by senior managers on the call but (they) were ultimately persuaded by the CEO to include Red 2 calls in the pilot".
Mr Sutton was also approached separately by staff who had concerns about Red 2 calls being included in the plan but these "were not adequately addressed" and he instructed it should go ahead.
The report said: "The CEO's directive and persuasive management style, coupled with an impending restructure of the executive team, meant that the level of challenge over the pilot within the organisation was inhibited."
When interviewed, members of staff at the trust said the decision to reassess Red 2 calls "came from the top" and Mr Sutton had given a "direct instruction".
Investigators also concluded that managing the trust's ambulance response times - as set by national NHS targets - was a "driver" for the project.
Furthermore, Secamb submitted data to monitor showing it had hit the target for Red 2 calls even though it had not.