Ambulance chief resigns after report into controversial pilot scheme

The chairman of an ambulance trust has announced his resignation after a report was published on a controversial scheme which delayed urgent care for some patients.

Tuesday, 15th March 2016, 1:30 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 3:01 am

South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust has been investigated following a project known as R3/G5 – run between December 2014 to February 2015 – which allowed an extra ten minutes for assessments before ambulances were dispatched to some urgent calls.

SECAmb has admitted the governance surrounding the pilot was ‘inadequate’.

Chairman of the trust Tony Thorne has today (March 15) confirmed his resignation.

Chief executive Paul Sutton is taking a ‘mutually-agreed’ leave of absence while the trust determines the appropriate actions to take.

The independent review undertaken by Deloitte into its Red 3/Green 5 Pilot, said: “The governance arrangements around the Operational Delivery Strategy Group (ODSG) were inadequate.

“Concerns were raised by a number of senior colleagues to the CEO in early December 2014 regarding the inclusion of Red 2 calls in the pilot.

“These concerns were not adequately addressed and the CEO instructed that the pilot should go ahead.”

“Following the suspension of the pilot on 24 February 2014, two operational impact papers were presented to the RMCGC on 16 March 2015.

“The second paper, authored by senior operations manager, misled the committee by playing down the implications of the pilot.”

The investigation has also revealed that the scheme meant SECAmb reported it met the 75 per cent performance targets set by NHS England for responding to Red 2 calls for January 2015, when this target had not been achieved.

The review looked specifically at the decision-making processes and governance around the implementation of the pilot.

It did not look at the impact of the pilot on patients - including whether patients’ conditions were worsened or treated more effectively than usual as a result of the pilot.

The impact of the scheme on patients is subject to a separate, clinically-led independent review, due to be concluded by June 2016.

A spokesman for SECAmb said: “The trust welcomes and accepts the findings of the review in full.

“It recognises that the governance surrounding the pilot was inadequate, and has already started to make serious changes to the way matters of governance are managed and dealt with to make sure lessons are learnt and a lapse in governance of this sort does not happen again.”

A joint recovery plan is being agreed with the trust’s commissioners and Monitor, its national regulator.

SECAmb said there have so far been ‘no clear indications’ that patients were harmed during the scheme.

It added: “Indeed, the review has identified a number of seriously-ill patients who received an improved response, due to earlier clinical intervention, as a consequence of the pilot.”

Tony Thorne informed Monitor in December of his intention to resign once there was a new chair in place.

A SECAmb spokesman said SECAmb would like to thank Tony for his ‘commitment and clear direction’ to the trust during the past four and a half years.

Sir Peter Dixon has been appointed as the interim chair, at Monitor’s request.

A spokesman for the trust added: “SECAmb would like to take this opportunity to reassure members of the public that the trust and its staff are, and always have been, committed to delivering a high level of patient care and service.

“Staff from across the trust are, as ever, working hard to provide a safe and highly-skilled level of professional care, which patients, quite rightly expect to receive.”

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