• Philip Astle to join SECAmb 
  • Is currently chief operating officer at SCAS
  • Current SECAmb chief leaving on Sunday

A former army officer who served in Afghanistan has been appointed the new chief executive of an ambulance trust in special measures.

Philip Astle, currently chief operating officer at South Central Ambulance Service Foundation Trust, will take up the top job at neighbouring South East Coast Ambulance Service FT in September.

He replaces Daren Mochrie, who is moving to the North West Ambulance Service Trust after two years at SECAmb. Fionna Moore, the trust’s medical director, will act as chief executive until Mr Astle arrives.

Mr Astle previously served in the army, including a lead role as a strategist and planner for operations in Afghanistan. He has also held a number of public and private sectors roles, including in the Border Force and the Passport Office, before moving to SCAS in 2016.

SECAmb chair David Astley said: “I am delighted that we have made this appointment and I look forward to working closely with Philip to continue to help drive the organisation forward.

“I know that his experience at South Central Ambulance Service and his variety of public and private sector experience will be of real benefit to the trust.”

SECAmb has had a turbulent few years, with allegations of bullying.

The trust has also faced an investigation into a policy which saw some ambulances deliberately delayed. Between December 2014 and February 2015, SECAmb ran a pilot where some calls to NHS 111 which were determined to need an ambulance response were re-triaged within the 999 emergency system. This resulted in delays of up to 10 minutes in ambulance despatch. An NHS England-commissioned report criticised the policy, adding the scheme was not in line with NHS England’s 111 commissioning standards. 

Mr Mochrie – whose final day at the trust is this Sunday – stepped in after a period of board instability, including the departure of both the former chair and chief executive. During his time at the trust, the Care Quality Commission has improved its rating from “inadequate” to “requires improvement”, although the trust remains in special measures.

Update: This story was updated at 12:35 on 29 March to provide further clarification on the investigation into the policy which caused ambulance delays.