East of England Ambulances: New chief on £98k salary

Ambulances parked outside Norfolk and Norwich Hospital East of England Ambulance Service has been criticised for response times

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An ambulance trust criticised for poor response times has hired a private company chief to boost its performance.

Rob Ashford resigned from the private Thames Ambulance Group to join East of England Ambulance Service (EEAST).

Mr Ashford, 44, will be responsible for running the service in Essex, on a salary of up to £98,000.

Health Minister Norman Lamb, the North Norfolk Liberal Democrat MP, said he was surprised the job had been created.

East of England Ambulance NHS Trust

  • EEAST's overall budget for 2011/12 was £225m and £5.4m was spent on private ambulances.
  • In 2012/13, the budget was 226m and the private spend increased to £9.5m.
  • The organisation provides ambulance services in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.
  • EEAST is investing £14m in new emergency ambulances and £2.3m in its response car fleet to replace 255 other vehicles by the end of June 2014.
  • The trust said it planned to recruit 82 specialist paramedics, 149 paramedics, 24 emergency medical technicians and 96 emergency care assistants.
  • It was ordered to improve its performance by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) after response times deteriorated and it admitted letting both patients and staff down.

Mr Ashford has experience of ambulance service operations in the private sector and with the NHS in the West Midlands and the east of England.

He was with the Italian-owned Thames Ambulance Group for four years as chief executive.

'Monitor service'

The company said Mr Ashford had severed all financial ties with them.

EEAST said Mr Ashford would be responsible for running the 999 ambulance service in Essex. His role would include hiring private firms to meet peak demands when required.

Mr Lamb said he was closely monitoring the service following complaints by residents and patients in his north Norfolk constituency.

He said he was "surprised" the new post had been created but did not foresee a conflict of interest in the role.

"If Mr Ashford has severed his links with Thames then it should be clear what is a conflict of interest and he should avoid it," he said.

"I am going to continue to monitor the service closely."

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