Ambulance Watch: Troubleshooter drafted in to improve region’s ambulance service

Anthony Marsh, CEO of the West Midlands Ambulance Service.

Anthony Marsh, CEO of the West Midlands Ambulance Service. - Credit: Archant

The chief executive of one of the top performing ambulance trusts in the country has been parachuted into the beleaguered East of England Ambulance Service to turn around its fortunes.

Union officials last night expressed their sympathy for the interim head of the ambulance trust after it emerged that the CEO of the West Midlands Ambulance Service had been drafted in to the under-fire NHS trust to conduct an independent review.

Anthony Marsh, a former head of the Essex Ambulance Service, has been brought in by the government to address ongoing issues regarding ambulance response times and concerns from patients and politicians.

Former NHS Norfolk chief executive Andrew Morgan remains interim chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service after taking on the role in December following the resignation of Hayden Newton.

Mr Marsh, who met with Mr Morgan and ambulance trust chairman Maria Ball on Friday, has been tasked by the Department of Health to make recommendations for improvements by next month.

In a statement last night, Mr Morgan said: 'Anthony Marsh is carrying out a review of the trust to gain an independent insight into what we do, how we do it and most importantly how we could improve our service. He will be focusing on getting quick results to ease pressure, in particular how we can improve performance in emergency operations. It is hoped at this stage that the review will be completed by the end of April.'

The development comes after the EDP launched Ambulance Watch last year calling for the region's ambulance service to improve and for the patients of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire to get the service they deserve.

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The East of England Ambulance Service is currently failing key targets of getting to 75pc of the most urgent and life-threatening 999 calls within eight minutes and reaching 95pc of A19-category calls within 19 minutes.

Gary Applin, Unison branch secretary for the ambulance service, said he felt 'sorry' for Andrew Morgan after only being in the interim post for less than three months. However, union officials would welcome the intervention of Mr Marsh if it turns out to be for the benefit of staff and patients, he said.

'I have met Andrew Morgan a number of times and he appears to be saying the right things and looking at the way things are being done. He needs to be given the time.'

'To me it is a little strange to bring someone else in. We want to work together for the benefit for staff and patients and Andrew appears to be going in the right direction. I am optimistic that Andrew has the right ability to get the board behind him. We are willing to back him to give him the support. He is aware of the problems throughout the organisation and he is looking at the number of ambulances on the road,' he said.

The ambulance trust announced last month that it was putting an extra 15 ambulances on the roads to help boost response times. However, the trust has struggled to staff the additional ambulances that have been deployed in Cromer, Dereham, Diss, Downham Market, Potter Heigham, Beccles and Mildenhall.

North Norfolk MP and health minister Norman Lamb welcomed the review by the West Midlands Ambulance Service chief executive.

'It is clearly important we establish absolutely what is going wrong and what potential solutions there are. We have to get it right and it has to be urgent and it can not drag on longer. I was given assurances in October 2011 and several times since then and nothing has happened and it has got worse,' he said.