Updated with MPs’ reactions: East of England Ambulance Service Trust chairman resigns

Maria Ball has resigned as chairman of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust board.

Maria Ball has resigned as chairman of the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust board. - Credit: Archant

The chairman of the East of England Ambulance Service Trust has resigned with immediate effect.

It was announced this morning at the ambulance trust's board meeting in Cambourne that Maria Ball has resigned from the role of chairman.

The troubled service has come under fire in recent times and just last week health watchdog the Care Quality Commission issuing a damning report which found that the service was failing to deliver on 'care and welfare of people who use the service'.

It found that response times had worsened in the last 12 months in Norfolk and stated that management appeared to have few answers to the trust's problems.

The failings of the service have been repeatedly highlighted through the EDP's Ambulance Watch campaign, which began last October to keep a watch on our region's ambulance service.

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Following the announcement of Ms Ball's departure as chairman, the trust said the process for appointing a new or interim chairman would start immediately but in the meantime vice chair Paul Remington will lead the organisation with Andrew Morgan, interim chief executive.

Mr Remington said: 'Maria has spent many years leading the ambulance service and I would like to thank her for her dedication and commitment through what have been some challenging times. Maria oversaw the formation of this Trust, bringing together three disparate organisations into one service, and its subsequent development.

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'We now must concentrate on looking forward and focusing solely on how we improve our service to patients and better support our staff. To that end we are developing a transformational plan, details of which will be published next week. 'This will involve recruiting many more front line staff, better managing sickness absence, clearer career pathways and a renewed focus on patient handover delays.'

MPs across the region have welcomed Ms Ball's resignation.

Health minister and North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb, said: 'I think Maria Ball has done the right thing. The performance of the trust has caused enormous and widespread concern. There has been a serious loss of confidence both amongst the public and the staff. What we absolutely need now is strong effective leadership at board level so that we can very quickly seek to restore confidence and ensure we have an ambulance service that people can rely on.

'The most important thing is rebuilding the confidence of staff. They have got a very dedicated and committed workforce, but moral has been very low. We have got high level of sickness absence. If you can galvanise the commitment of the professional paramedics and other staff and give them the leadership that they need and deserve, then I think they can achieve great things and provide a reliable service. It is tough because we are seeing increasing numbers of calls each year. The demand is constantly rising but having talked to many experience ambulance people I am quite sure that with effective leadership we can get a service we can rely on.'

Health minister Dan Poulter, who is MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, said: 'Together with Norman Lamb and Peter Aldous I have been campaigning for three years for improvements to our ambulance service. We have some dedicated hard working front line paramedics who for too long have not been supported by the management at the trust and there has been a failure of accountability and a failure to admit there is a problem.

'It is right that the chair of the trust has resigned and has accepted responsibility for the failure of the board to properly hold to account senior managers in the ambulance service for their poor management of the service and the effect it has had on response times and patient care.

'I am hopeful that with new leadership and with a new board, the ambulance service will be able to move forward positively and work constructively with front line paramedics to improve response times and patient care for the patients of Suffolk and Norfolk.'

Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said: 'I welcome her (Ms Ball's) decision and thank her for her 6 years of service. It is the right decision for her to step aside and is the next step to turning the performance of the service around.'

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon said: 'This is an important first step in getting our ambulance service back on track. 'However, we are not there yet and we must ensure the leadership at the top of the ambulance trust is worthy of the first-class men and women on the front line'.

Steve Barclay, MP for NE Cambs, welcomed the resignation of the chairman and also wanted assurances that there would be 'transparency over what payments have been given to departing senior managers to ensure they are not paid for failure.'

He said the failure of the trust 'is now reflected in both chief executive and the chairman resigning.'

'I have for some time raised concerns both locally and in Parliament over excessive delays in ambulances responding to calls from my constituents,' he said.

'We now urgently need for a change programme to be delivered so that this issue is gripped'.

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