A new chief executive has been parachuted into a trust at the centre of a waiting-list scandal.
Gary Walker will start as interim chief executive at United Lincolnshire Hospitals trust on 9 October.
The previous interim chief executive Helen Scott-South and three staff have been suspended while investigations into orthopaedic waiting lists continue. The trust says the suspensions are 'a neutral act'.
But a report to the board last week revealed the scale of the problems. An external investigating team at Lincoln County Hospital found 'clear evidence of deliberate manipulation of waiting lists' at both Lincoln County Hospital and Pilgrim Hospital in Boston.
This included classifying cancellations as due to patients when they were actually due to lack of beds, or unreasonably placing patients on a suspended list, which would not affect targets. Some of the problems date back to April 2005.
The trust is contacting 1,244 patients on the suspended list to find out if they still want treatment: of those who have replied so far, around 80 per cent do. It is also putting on extra theatre sessions and purchasing operations from elsewhere to deal with 564 patients who are at risk of breaching the six-month waiting-list target by March 2007.
The full extent of the waiting-list breaches is still not known but the trust reported 40 breaches at the end of August 2006 and says subsequent monthly reports are likely to be higher. There have also been claims of bullying and intimidation and the report to the board talks of a culture which did not support staff in raising concerns.
The trust has submitted an action plan to NHS East Midlands. Mr Walker, who is leaving Surrey and Sussex Healthcare trust to take up the post, pledged to stay at Lincolnshire 'until the job is done'.
'My first priority is to ensure that patients disadvantaged by failure of the trust waiting-list system are treated as fast as possible,' he said. 'Those involved in the failure of the system need their records cleared as quickly as possible - either cleared or dismissed. That must be done by the end of October.
'My second priority is to ensure that the turnaround plan is owned by staff and driven by quality and performance, not just finance.
'Third, to quickly create a clear plan for health services in partnership with the newly formed PCT. We need that clarity; we need to know where we are going.'
Fears that services could be lost at some of the overspent trust's hospitals have led to demonstrations. A spokesman said the trust would be working with the new Lincolnshire primary care trust to consider what services were safe, sustainable and cost-effective.