Ambulance Watch: Health minister defends ambulance boss over pay criticism

PUBLISHED: 06:30 20 August 2014

Norman Lamb MP, pictured at Blakeney Hotel.

Norman Lamb MP, pictured at Blakeney Hotel. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

A health minister leapt to the defence of the region's ambulance boss last night by saying it would be a "disaster" if the CEO left his post because of pressure over his salary.

East of England Ambulance Trust CEO Anthony Marsh. Photo: Steve AdamsEast of England Ambulance Trust CEO Anthony Marsh. Photo: Steve Adams

The wage of Anthony Marsh, chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) and West Midlands Ambulance Service, hit national headlines last month after it emerged that his annual earnings had risen to more than £232,000.

However, North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, who is also the government’s care minister, said Dr Marsh was the best man for the job to turn around the fortunes of the under-performing ambulance service and it was “essential” that the East of England kept him.

Mr Lamb added that he had no involvement in the appointment of the senior ambulance chief and he was not aware of the size of the chief executive’s salary.

He added that he had a great deal of confidence in the work that Dr Marsh was doing to transform EEAST and what had been a “seriously dysfunctional organisation” needed stability.

Dr Marsh, who has been criticised for his £400 a week taxi bills, began his twin hatter role in January after conducting a damning review into the management of the East of England service.

Mr Lamb said: “It is essential we keep him. I would prefer to pay one good leader a salary to secure him rather than pay vast amounts of public money on excessive management levels on a poor service. We now have a leadership that has a fighting chance of transforming a service for local patients.”

“He is doing a tough and necessary job to ensure money is being spent on the front-line on paramedics. It would be a disaster for the ambulance service and patients if he was driven out of the job,” he said.

Dr Marsh’s salary was described as “unacceptable” and “quite obscene” by junior health minister and MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich MP Dan Poulter who pledged to raise the issue with the two ambulance trusts and Earl Howe, who is responsible for the ambulance service at the Department of Health.

Mr Lamb added that the NHS Trust Development Authority (TDA) was responsible for the appointment of the experienced CEO.

“The TDA was in a situation where the trust has been mismanaged in my view and it was in crisis in my view. They tried to recruit and they failed and so the TDA looked at the possibility of using an existing experienced manager doubling up his role and that makes sense and he [Anthony Marsh] and he is the most experienced ambulance leader in the country.”

“I have been lobbying as a constituent MP on behalf of constituents for a good ambulance service and to get the trust turned around. I had no idea what salary he was on.”

“In the last decade pay levels generally in the NHS in some areas have become excessive. I see very high salaries being paid often in the non delivery part of the service and the regulator and national bodies that run the various parts of the NHS and I feel very strongly there needs to be real restraint shown,” he said.

An EDP poll on Dr Marsh’s pay has witnessed a change in voting with 76pc of respondents (362 people) saying his salary was justified, if he turns around the performance of the NHS trust, and 24pc (115 people) said it was not justified.

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