Shock over disgraced health boss

A DISGRACED health boss sacked from his job and struck off the medical register to protect the public is working as an ambulance co-ordinator in Suffolk, it has emerged.

A DISGRACED health boss sacked from his job and struck off the medical register to protect the public is working as an ambulance co-ordinator in Suffolk, it has emerged.

Keith Hotchkiss was dismissed from his position as a professional development manager at the East Anglian Ambulance NHS Trust after helping his wife steal pain killing gas.

This week the Health Professions Council (HPC) ruled he was unfit to practise as a paramedic and banned him from the role, saying it had made the decision “to protect the public”.

Now it has emerged he is still is working close to the medical profession, as the transport services co-ordinator for the St John Ambulance in Suffolk.

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Last night a spokeswoman for the HPC said they were “disappointed and frustrated” at the situation and surprised a “reputable organisation” such at St John Ambulance had decided to employ Mr Hotchkiss.

He was found to have assisted his wife in the theft of entonox cylinders, used for pain relief, from Diss Ambulance Station, in Norfolk, in July 2003.

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The conduct and competence committee, sitting at Ipswich's Novotel Hotel, on Monday, heard he had abused his position and acted dishonestly.

In a statement, it said: “The committee has decided, in order to protect the public, to strike Mr Hotchkiss' name from the register.”

Mr Hotchkiss did not attend the hearing and was not represented.

When approached by the EADT, Mr Hotchkiss, of Mendlesham, declined to comment on the allegations against him or his suitability for this current role.

But James Brownfield, commander for St John Ambulance Suffolk, said: “As far as St John Ambulance Suffolk is concerned, we were fully aware of this allegation before employing Keith Hotchkiss 18 months ago.

“We obtained several references before Keith commenced his post. The incident itself took place three years ago and, as far as we understand, this is an allegation for which the police did not prosecute.

“Keith was not and is not employed in a clinical position and has no contact with the public. We're satisfied there's absolutely no threat posed by Keith's continued employment.”

A spokeswoman for the St John Ambulance added Mr Hotchkiss would not have access to prescribed drugs as part of his role.

But a volunteer within the charity said Mr Hotchkiss' role was a matter of concern among staff.

He said: “Our trust and respect for him has gone. He's in a position of authority and a lot of us find that difficult.

“The HPC quite clearly stated in their decision that the reason he was being struck off was to protect the public.

“The concerns have been voiced to the hierarchy locally but nothing has been done.”

A spokeswoman for HPC said there is nothing to stop Mr Hotchkiss taking up his position.

But she said: “It's unfortunate and extremely frustrating for us.

“By striking him off, the council has said he can't use the title of paramedic for at least five years. He can then reapply but unfortunately that's where our powers end.

“If Keith Hotchkiss wants to go out there and work as ambulance technicians there's nothing we can do to stop them.

“But I'm quite surprised that such a reputable organisation like St John Ambulance would employ such a person in that capacity after our ruling.”

Paul Henry, associate director of emergency services for the East Anglian Ambulance Trust, confirmed Mr Hotchkiss left his role as professional development manager on September 30, 2003.

He was unable to comment on the reasons for the departure.

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