A leading ambulance chief from the region is retiring after almost 15 years in post.
North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (NEAS) chief executive Simon Featherstone is respected within the profession and is one of the longest-serving ambulance leaders in the country.
The 60-year-old has led many key developments in emergency care and is now reluctantly calling time on his career to enjoy his retirement.
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.”
During his time at NEAS, he spearheaded the trust’s expansion through two mergers, at first between Northumbria Ambulance and County Durham Ambulance services; and more recently with Teesside, creating a thousand new jobs and leading on developments in urgent and emergency care that have been rolled out across the country.
NEAS chairman Ash Winter said: “I would like to give 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 lead 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.”
Mr Featherstone 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 began employment at a health trust in Newcastle in 1997.
Under his leadership, the North East became the first area in more than two decades to pilot a new telephone assessment system for an ambulance service in the country.
The new telephone triage tested in 2006 in the region, led to the later development of the nationwide NHS 111 service.
Dr Anthony Marsh, Chairman of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives, said: “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.
“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 he has made a huge impact on ambulance services in the North East and across England. We wish him every happiness in his retirement.”