Published: 13/06/2002, Volume II2, No.5809 Page 5

East Elmbridge and Mid Surrey primary care trust has suspended chief executive Don Marquis and launched an investigation into alleged financial irregularity, calling in the NHS counterfraud service and Surrey police to help.

Mr Marquis, who had been in post for just two months at the newly formed trust, has offered his resignation with immediate effect, the trust said.

The PCT would not comment on the nature of the allegations.

Financial director Peter Maxted is to step in as acting chief executive.

Mr Marquis has a long track record in senior NHS management in Surrey. In 1996 he was appointed chief executive of Surrey Oaklands trust and in 1998 he went to Lifecare trust as acting chief executive to oversee investigations into allegations of fraud there.

This investigation resulted in the jailing of NHS manager Walter Hurley, who had gambled£400,000 of social security payments that the trust should have repaid to the Department of Social Security.

In 2001 Mr Marquis took up a one-year secondment as joint chief executive and PCT project manager for East Elmbridge primary care group and Mid Surrey PCG. He was subsequently appointed chief executive at the new PCT, which is one of the largest in the country.

Locally, observers said they were 'shocked and surprised' by events.

One said: 'Don's a fighter with a reputation for taking on tough issues. He's a big man to lose.'

Roy Lilley, who was chief executive at Homewood trust in Surrey where Mr Marquis was nursing director from 1989-95, said he was 'absolutely amazed' by the suspension.

'Don is straight as a die and very hard working. He's a star manager with a real grasp of the subtleties of patient-focused care, ' he said.

HSJ was unable to contact Mr Marquis.