Ambulance Watch: Questions over assistant chief executive’s appointment

Paul Leaman, who is the assistant chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service.

Paul Leaman, who is the assistant chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service. - Credit: Archant

Questions have been raised after an ambulance manager, suspended for misconduct five years ago, was handed a new assistant chief executive role at an NHS trust.

Paul Leaman was served with a 12 month suspension order by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) in 2009 after it emerged that he had taken an ambulance vehicle on a 'booze cruise' to France.

Concerns have now been raised after the employee for the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) - which covers Norfolk and five other counties - was given an assistant chief executive position in January with the under-performing organisation, despite no formal recruitment process being held.

Officials from the trust said they did not need to advertise the position externally or internally by saying that the job was a temporary one and the title did not mean he deputised for CEO Anthony Marsh - who is also the chief executive of the West Midlands Ambulance Service.

Mr Leaman, who has around 30 years experience in the ambulance service, was suspended from the HCPC register for a year in 2009 after it came to light that he and a colleague had taken a Peugeot people carrier owned by Essex Ambulance Service on a two day trip to buy alcohol in France in December 2001. A garage had been requested to remove three ambulance badges and the middle row of seats from the vehicle to carry out the booze cruise.

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A panel also found that Cambridgeshire-based Mr Leaman's fitness to practice was impaired after he exerted pressure on junior staff to place equipment orders with a friend's company whilst he was director of operations at the Essex Ambulance Service.

Mr Leaman, who called on Anthony Marsh as a character witness during the conduct and competence committee hearing, has worked for EEAST since its formation in 2006, but was on a secondment at the Midlands Air Ambulance in 2009.

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While there is no suggestion of wrongdoing, critics have raised questions over the appointment.

Denise Burke, of the Act on Ambulances campaign, and Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for North Norfolk, said: 'It is surprising to hear that Paul Leaman has the title of assistant CEO and this has really not come to light or made public. There seems to be questions over his role and how transparent the recruitment was.'

A spokesman for EEAST said Mr Leaman's pay had not changed since being appointed assistant chief executive and there was no recruitment process because it was a temporary role. He added that Mr Leaman did not sit on the trust board.

'Paul has been a senior manager within EEAST and the ambulance service for many years, but his previous role as associate director for urgent care was deleted and he took up this current temporary role which does not include deputising for the chief executive.

'He manages a number of work streams around the transformation of the ambulance service, especially leading on reducing management and back office costs. So far we are on track to have removed £10 million, money that will be reinvested in front-line staffing and service,' said the spokesman.

Mr Leaman's new role followed the recruitment of Dr Marsh as interim CEO of EEAST in January.

It has also emerged that the trust's former director of emergency operations, Neil Storey, who lost his job last summer as part of an senior executive restructure, had been on the trust's pay roll for 11 months. A spokesman said Mr Storey had been made redundant, but had been on a period of gardening leave from September to July 31.

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