Logistics manager hired as ambulance leader in Norfolk and Suffolk

East of England Ambulance Trust ambulance. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

East of England Ambulance Trust ambulance. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Concerns have been raised after a manager with 20 years' experience in delivering parcels was hired to transform the ambulance service in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The under-performing East of England Ambulance Service has introduced a new tier of management after recruiting three new sector leader positions on salaries of almost £100,000 a year each to deliver improved response times and raise staff morale.

Union officials have backed plans to devolve decision-making within the NHS trust, which covers six counties. However, eyebrows have been raised about a decision to recruit someone from the private sector to make imp-rovements in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The ambulance trust has confirmed the appointment of three sector leaders, with the head of Norfolk and Suffolk being Richard Cutts, who is currently head of operations at DHL Supply Chain.

The new recruit, who has 20 years' experience in logistics and transportation, will be responsible for the delivery of the 999 service in the two counties and will be supported by local management teams.

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Gary Applin, Unison branch secret-ary for the East of England Amb-ulance Service, said the most recent recruitment had been a 'surprise'.

'We support the idea and the new CEO and board are trying to empower managers rather than the Draconian micro-managing that was happening before. We have to get the right people in these jobs.

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'We are a bit dubious because he [Richard Cutts] is from the private sector, which is slightly worrying. We have voiced our concerns regarding him being private sector, but we have been assured as much as we can be that he is following the public service doctrine. We have had concerns about the band 9 salary – it is a hefty salary. We need resources on the ground and that is plainly obvious,' he said.

The ambulance trust has also confirmed that the sector leader for Essex will be Rob Ashford, who is currently chief executive of the Thames Ambulance Group, and Dave Fountain has been promoted as Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire sector leader.

The new positions are in addition to new general manager roles for Norfolk and Suffolk.

Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, said: 'I can see the case of having a direct focus on Norfolk and Suffolk. My question is where they are achieving other efficiency savings in the management structure? The front line is what is critical and paramedics want to see efficiencies in the management structure rather than impacting on the front line.'

A spokesman for the NHS trust said: 'This will empower frontline staff to make changes at a local level, ensuring that we make the relevant improvements, within the right areas, to do the best for our patients locally.'

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