A former chief executive of the Crown Prosecution Service has been appointed chair of a struggling ambulance trust

South East Coast Ambulance Service Foundation Trust, which has been in special measures since September, said yesterday that Richard Foster will join the trust on 31 March.

He will replace interim chair Peter Dixon, who has been in post for the past 12 months.

Mr Foster was chief executive of the CPS between 2002 and 2007. More recently he chaired the Criminal Cases Review Commission.

He has also held senior positions in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Mr Foster said: “I know that the trust has been through difficult times recently. But I am equally confident that by working together, and by keeping patient need and patient care at the heart of everything we do, that we can restore public trust and confidence by delivering what we all want, the best possible public service.”

Lead trust governor Brian Rockell said: “I am pleased that the council of governors has been able to appoint a person with the experience we need to this important position.”

The trust came in for major criticism in late 2015 over an unannounced decision to delay response to some urgent calls.

Pressure to meet targets led to the trust adopting a controversial programme to reprioritise some calls knowns as the “red three programme”.

The trust had been re-triaging some calls, which came through NHS 111, without official approval. The calls had been passed by 111 staff to 999 staff as requiring an emergency response with a target response time of eight minutes. Instead of responding within the eight minutes, the calls were re-examined by the triage staff for up to 10 minutes.

An NHS England report into on the scheme, published in November 2015, said that 26,000 calls were affected. It said investigators had been unable to determine who made decisions about the pilot because of lack of documentation and information.

A number of reviews into what went wrong followed, and in summer the Care Quality Commission issued a warning notice on wider quality and leadership concerns to the trust.

Its former chief executive, Paul Sutton, left the organisation in summer 2016.

Performance issues are an ongoing problem for the trust. Response times for “red one” calls, requiring a response within eight minutes, fell from 73.8 per cent achieved in October-December 2015 to 64.7 per cent in October-December 2016.