“We have let some members of the public down” - New ambulance service boss pledges to make improvements

'Not good enough'. That was the verdict on the performance of the East of England Ambulance Service from its new chief executive last night as he pledged to improve response times and restore public confidence.

Former NHS Norfolk and Waveney chief executive Andrew Morgan took over as the new head of NHS trust on Monday following the retirement of Hayden Newton.

In an interview with the EDP yesterday, the new man at the helm accepted that the ambulance service's performance had not been good enough and pledged to improve service in Norfolk and Suffolk.

The last six months has seen the ambulance trust embroiled in complaints from patients regarding long waits for an ambulance and concern from staff and unions over staffing levels and changes to rotas.

Mr Morgan, who has spent the last five years being lead commissioner for the ambulance service in Norfolk and Waveney, added that one of his top priorities was to improve handover times with A&E units, particularly the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and would be working closely with hospital trusts to improve.

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The 49-year-old added that he was looking to rebuild bridges between ambulance trust management and frontline staff and was keen to turn the interim role into a permanent one.

'The vast majority of our dealings with our public we do really well and the feedback is excellent. Our staff are first rate and are caring, compassionate and high quality staff and on occasion we have let some members of the public down and they have not got the service we would expect . It is not good enough.'

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'Some of the isolated incidents where we have not responded as well as we would have liked has led to a reduction in public confidence and has damaged our reputation and as someone who loves the NHS that hurts and it hurts our staff,' he said.

The new leadership came as board members from health care regular Monitor yesterday discussed the East of England Ambulance Service's bid to become a foundation trust, which would enable the trust to have more freedom and control over its affairs.

Mr Morgan said the only stumbling block to foundation status application could be the service's response times.

Figures show that between April and October, the ambulance trust hit a 75pc target of responding to category A calls within eight minutes across the region. However, the Norfolk figure was 64pc and the target was 68pc. For most of this year, fewer than a quarter of Norfolk stroke patients arrived at hospital within the guideline 60 minutes, new figures revealed last month.

The ambulance trust faces having to make savings of �50m over the next five years, but is looking to recruit 140 new frontline staff to help improve coverage across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

Mr Morgan added that he wanted to establish better relationships with staff and union colleagues after members of the GMB union expressed a vote of no confidence in the previous chief executive.

'We need to engage and involve our staff. They are really talented here and there is a gap between frontline and management and we need to rebuild trust. We need to unlock the potential of our staff.'

'We are recruiting 140 extra frontline staff and there are rota changes for staff to make sure they are in the right place at the right time,' he said.

The permanent role of ambulance chief is set to be advertised in the New Year - a position Mr Morgan is keen to be a front runner for.

'I'm doing it on an interim basis, but I'm not holding back on doing the things that need doing. I'm here on the basis that I'm not just a stop gap - we need to transform the ambulance service,' he said.

A spokesman for Monitor said a decision on the ambulance trust's foundation status bid could be made today.

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