• Chair stands down early in latest blow to struggling East of England Ambulance Service Trust
  • Departure leaves trust facing leadership under interim chair and interim chief executive

East of England Ambulance Service Trust chair Sarah Boulton will step down later this month after five years in the role, the trust has announced.

Ms Boulton’s early departure will leave the hugely challenged provider with both an interim chair and chief executive, following the resignation of chief Robert Morton last September.

Her term as chair was not due to finish until March 2022. She said in a statement issued by the trust today: “The trust is about to begin the process of recruiting a permanent chief executive [and] I felt it was the right time to hand over to a new chair so that they can be fully involved in that process.”

HSJ understands the trust is also awaiting the results of a recent inspection from the Care Quality Commission. Inspectors rated the trust “requires improvement” last July. But they returned swiftly after raising concerns about a “lack of leadership”, “low staff morale” and an “unsustainable” strategy in key areas.

Dorothy Hosein replaced Mr Morton as chief executive following the inspection but she only took on the role on an interim basis. The trust also has an acting chief operating officer following the departure of Kevin Brown earlier this year after nearly three years in post. Marcus Bailey was appointed as interim in February.

The trust has struggled significantly against quality and performance standards for a number of years. But it has been under intense pressure since January 2018 when a senior whistleblower made accusations that significant ambulance delays had led to patient harm and deaths, and that the trust suffered from a lack of senior leadership.

Ms Boulton is an NHS non-executive with significant experience having previously chaired the former NHS Midlands and East Strategic Health Authority.

Her statement issued by the trust today added: “It has been a real pleasure and privilege to have served as the chair of the trust. I’d like to say a huge thank you to all staff, who do an incredible job every single day, and to our board of directors for all their support over the years.

“It has been a very difficult decision to step aside as we have a really fantastic group of people working at EEAST who are committed to doing their absolute best for our patients. However, as the trust is about to begin the process of recruiting a permanent chief executive, I felt it was the right time to hand over to a new chair so that they can be fully involved in that process.

“We have made some really positive changes to the service over the past few years, and I’m confident that I am leaving EEAST in a strong position. I wish everyone at the trust every success for the future.”

A statement from Ms Hosein, also issued by the trust, said: “Our staff and volunteers have really appreciated Sarah’s commitment and hard work over the last five years. On behalf of everyone at the trust, I would like to thank her for her dedication and the stability she brought to EEAST during her time in office.”

The trust said an interim chair of EEAST will be appointed shortly.