Union criticises New Year Honour for former East of England Ambulance Service chief executive
The recently-retired chief executive of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust (EEAST) has been honoured in the Queen's New Year Honours - a decision which has been criticised by a workers' union.
Hayden Newton, who retired from his role earlier this month after five years in the job, has become one of the first ever recipients of the Queen's Ambulance Service Medal for Distinguished Service (QAM).
Mr Newton's achievements throughout his career have brought him the honour, including his role as the national ambulance lead for the London 2012 Olympics and the 'outstanding major incident experience' he demonstrated at the Hatfield and Potter's Bar rail crashes, in October 2000 and May 2002 respectively.
EEAST chairman, Maria Ball, said: 'I am thrilled that Hayden's tireless work has been recognised in this way. The medal is in honour of his dedication to helping patients in their times of most need by direct involvement throughout his NHS career and his part in improving response times nationally. It is fully deserved.'
However, with EEAST coming in for plenty of criticism for failing to meet government targets for response times in the latter stages of Mr Hayden's time in charge, the GMB union questioned the timing of the award.
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When Mr Hayden announced his retirement in October the EEAST overall percentage for responding to its most serious cases within eight minutes was down to 73.7pc, below the target of 75pc, with Norfolk down at 66pc and Suffolk at 68pc.
GMB organiser, Tony Hughes, said: 'The news that Hayden Newton is to receive the Queen's award for service to the ambulance service is a surprise to GMB members who worked for the Trust during his time in charge.
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'At best this is bad timing as he left the service with a poor record of reaching the government targets for response times and a worse one on industrial relations, with a GMB survey on bullying within the Trust under way.'
Mr Newton began his career in the ambulance service more than 30 years ago and went on to train to become a paramedic.
He worked for a number of ambulance services, taking up posts such as director of operations for the Scottish Ambulance Service and then becoming the chief executive of Kent Ambulance Service.
The citation for the medal noted Mr Newton's role as the national Department of Health lead for the introduction of the Call Connect prioritisation system in control rooms, describing this as 'significantly improving response times nationally'.
Mr Newton said: 'I am absolutely delighted to receive this award and want to take the opportunity to thank my family, friends and colleagues who have supported me throughout my 35 years serving patients in the ambulance service.'
While Andrew Morgan, Mr Newton's successor as EEAST interim chief executive, added: 'This is thoroughly deserved for all the work Hayden has carried out through his 35-year career and he is the ideal person to receive this prestigious award. It is an honour to be following in his footsteps.'