Ambulance boss suspended over call handling scandal

Posted On 07 Mar 2016 at 11:27 pm

Unconfirmed reports suggest that ambulance boss Paul Sutton has been suspended from duty over the 111 call handling scandal.

The GMB union tweeted this evening (Monday 7 March) that it was trying to verify reports that Mr Sutton had been placed on leave.

The reports follow growing pressure over the past week for Mr Sutton to step down as chief executive of the South East Coast Ambulance Service, which serves Brighton and Hove.

The ambulance trust tonight did not deny that Mr Sutton had been suspended but said that it would be inappropriate to comment.

A leaked report last week suggested that Mr Sutton was ultimately responsible for a secret policy that may have cost up to 25 patients’ lives.

Paul Sutton

Paul Sutton

The Daily Telegraph carried details of the leaked report. The newspaper suggested that between 11 and 25 patients may have died because calls to the NHS 111 number, but which needed an emergency response, were not put through promptly to 999 operators.

The Telegraph said that it was relating the findings of a report commissioned by the NHS regulator Monitor.

The newspaper said in its front-page report: “Some 20,000 patients were affected by the covert operation that kept high-risk cases in the south east waiting up to twice as long if their call was referred from the (111) helpline.

“At least 11 deaths have been linked to the rogue protocols.”

Ambulance chiefs are suspected of trying to make the trust’s performance appear better than it was.

They said that they were trying to prioritise patients more efficiently.

Tonight a spokesman for the South East Coast Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust said: “It is not appropriate for the trust to comment on the position of any individuals at this time.”

  1. MC Reply

    The measures implemented were designed to ensure that calls referred from the new 111 service were being accurately assessed as requiring a blue light service. In the early days there was an overly cautious algorithm that was indicating a higher level of emergency than necessary causing ambulance crews to be incorrectly despatched by 111 therefore taking them out of an available state for calls coming straight into 999 call centres.

    Far from trying to make the operational response metrics look better, this temporary change was designed to ensure the availability of paramedic crews for true emergencies.

    Paul Sutton, as well as being the Chief Exec of SECAmb is also a practising paramedic. He is still operationally active and has worked every Christmas and New Year for years in order to allow others to have time off with their families. It is disappointing that the press and some politicians are seeking personal gain through twisting the truth behind this story and launching these unfounded attacks on one of the NHS’s most innovative leaders at a time when all our NHS services are having to manage reducing budgets and an ever increasing population. Shame on you.

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