North East Ambulance Service Chief Executive Simon Featherstone announced to the Board of Directors and Council of Governors he is stepping down at a public meeting.
He said: “It will be a big wrench to leave the NEAS, but the time is right for me as I turned 60 last year. My time here has been highly stimulating and personally fulfilling, which has been made possible because of the close support of successive chairmen, non-executive directors and a wonderful team of colleagues, right across the trust, who have placed the interests of our patients as their highest priority.”
Under his leadership, the ambulance service expanded through two mergers – firstly between Northumbria Ambulance and County Durham Ambulance services; and more recently with Teesside – creating an additional 1,000 jobs and leading on innovations in urgent and emergency care that have been copied and rolled out across the rest of the country.
NEAS Chairman Ash Winter said: “I would like to my thanks and that of the Board for Simon’s 15 years of excellent service to NEAS. He has inspired the ambulance locally to truly innovative reform that has immeasurably improved patient care and to led the ambulance sector nationally to be a recognised and influential partner in the reform of urgent and emergency care.
“We will be wishing him every happiness in retirement in the months ahead and we will now begin the search for a new Chief Executive. The Foundation Trust process is that the Non-Executive Directors, with the approval of the Council of Governors, appoint the Chief Executive. We will be using external professionals to assist us in the process.”
Simon joined the ambulance service as chief executive in October 1999 following a career in chartered accountancy, where he worked for an insurance company in Bermuda, an aviation company in Luton, building societies in Bristol and Sunderland, before going to work for the NHS in Scotland as Director of Finance and then joining City Health (Community & Mental Health) Trust in Newcastle in 1997.
His interest in “whole-systems approaches” to the reform of urgent and emergency care ensured the ambulance service played a full part in the delivery of improvements in patient care – locally and nationally. This led to the first pilot in more than two decades of a new telephone assessment system for a UK ambulance service.
Known as NHS Pathways, the new telephone triage tested in 2006 in the North East offered a UK evidence-based, consistent, cost-effective approach to patient assessment over the telephone, which was later developed as a single point of access for wider urgent care assessment across County Durham and Darlington.
It became the foundation of the NHS111 number that was first launched by the Secretary of State for Health in 2010.
Dr Anthony Marsh QAM, Chairman of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, added:
Simon has been deeply committed to increasing the professionalism of the workforce but also working hard to develop excellent links between the ambulance service and other parts of the NHS which are bringing real benefits to patients every day.
Simon and his Trust have been leaders in the development of many new innovations and advances over the years. For example, he is a strong supporter of 111 which is doing so well in the North East. Equally, he was at the forefront of the move to allow ambulance services to become Foundation Trusts which has allowed local communities to get far more involved in the organisation and the way that it develops.
I can speak for all of his colleagues around the country when I say that we are really sorry to see him retire. He can leave his role knowing that he has made a huge impact on ambulance services in the North East and across England. We wish him every happiness in his retirement.”