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London Ambulance Service’s attempts to get out of special measures were today dealt a blow when its chief executive announced she was quitting.

Dr Fionna Moore, 66, a widely-respected medic who is credited with helping to improve staff morale, is to retire at the end of the year.

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The LAS has faced unprecedented demand – about 5,000 999 calls a day – at a time of staff shortages, meaning it has consistently failed to hit response times. It was placed in special measures a year ago after a critical report by the NHS watchdog, the Care Quality Commission.

The CQC regards “leadership” as a priority when assessing whether an organisation is able to put in place the changes required to improve. Inspectors are due to return in February. LAS chiefs have been warned to “pick up the pace” of improvement if they wish to emerge from the lowest category.

Dr Moore became interim chief executive in January 2015, following the departure of Ann Radmore. She treated patients at the Southall and Paddington train crashes and was London’s first trauma director.

She plans to work part-time, performing clinical shifts with LAS and London’s Air Ambulance and working in emergency medicine three days a week.

Dr Moore said: “I took on the chief executive role intending to do it for two years, to stabilise the service at what was a challenging time. I always wanted time at the end of my career to step-back from management responsibilities and focus on my first passion, the clinical care of patients.”

Dr Moore was appointed to the chief executive’s post after an unprecedented campaign in her favour from staff.

LAS chairman Heather Lawrence said: “Her leadership has helped steer the service through a challenging period and in the last two years she has overseen one of the biggest recruitment drives in NHS history, the development of the advanced paramedic practitioners programme, an improved fleet and focused on the personal development and recognition for everyone who works for the service.”

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