• East of England Ambulance Service Trust chief announces he will leave post
  • Announcement follows risk summit and calls for leadership change by senior MPs
  • Trust chair says she is “saddened” and that he leaves a “great” legacy

The chief executive of the embattled East of England Ambulance Service Trust has announced he will step down, citing personal reasons.

Robert Morton, who has overseen significant challenges at the trust including a risk summit after allegations about patient harm caused by ambulance delays and cultural concerns, said he felt unable to commit to the trust “for a further three years” due to his “future plans”.

His departure, which will happen during “this financial year” and was announced by the trust late on Friday, follows calls for leadership change at the trust by senior local MPs.

The trust is wrestling with some of the worst ambulance response times in England and recently floated plans for volunteer ambulance drivers and drafting in the military to cover staff shortages.

Trust chair Sarah Boulton however said Mr Morton had the trust board’s unequivocal backing. He left a “great” legacy and his departure had “saddened” her, she said.

Verdicts from outside the region on Mr Morton’s tenure were also split. A review by Deloitte concluded in July there was “cohesive leadership” with a “clear vision” under his charge.

The Care Quality Commission however raised concerns about how well led the trust was and had given it a “requires improvement” rating just weeks before the Deloitte review was released.

North East Ambulance Service Foundation Trust chief executive Yvonne Ormston also carried out a review into the trust leadership’s planning and preparations over last winter.

The Deloitte review confirmed Ms Ormston’s review was complete. But the trust said it did not have a copy of the review, which it had jointly commissioned with NHS Improvement. HSJ has requested the review from NHSI.

Ms Boulton said in a statement: “I am sad to say that our chief executive Robert Morton has informed me that he is leaving us.

”For three years, he has successfully secured long-lasting changes on behalf of patients and staff. Together, we have found a talented and steadfast board to lead a wider team to deliver those improvements. The biggest achievement of the board he built was to secure a six-year contract with our commissioners…

“Robert’s legacy is a great one. He has had the vision and compassion to get us into a great place, and our highly skilled board members will continue on their course to leading EEAST to becoming a high-performing trust.”

Mr Morton thanked the frontline staff and board. He said in a statement: “While I feel privileged to be the chief executive of EEAST my future plans mean I cannot commit to a further three years. I feel this is the right time to hand over to someone else.

“I wish to record my thanks to our trust chair, Sarah Boulton and my board and executive colleagues for their unwavering support and commitment over the last three years. I also want to thank staff for their care, compassion and commitment to our patients and to supporting each other.”