Published: 20/03/2003, Volume II3, No. 5847 Page 9

The Department of Health's national ambulance adviser has attacked a Commission for Health Improvement report on his former trust as shallow, inaccurate and having been written by people who do not understand the ambulance service.

Gron Roberts, who was chief executive of Essex Ambulance Service trust until the end of last year, said the description of the trust given in the CHI clinical governance review was not one that he recognised.

In its damning report on the trust, CHI says it is concerned that the trust 'has traditionally managed its staff through a command and control culture', which 'has led to some bullying'.

The report also says the trust has focused its efforts on meeting the government's response time targets for ambulance trusts, and that this had 'an adverse effect on staff morale'.

Although the trust accepted the report and said a different style of management was now appropriate in the ambulance service, Mr Roberts attacked the review.

He said: 'It is fairly shallow and, like many CHI reports, inaccurate ...I do not recognise the organisation that I was involved in.'

Mr Roberts said he acknowledged there were problems in the trust, but he said he believed the review team did not understand the ambulance service and that he had not been given the chance to comment on the accuracy of the report.

Mr Roberts said he had not spent as much time in the trust as he would have liked, due to a parttime secondment to the DoH before his present appointment .

He accepted there were problems with meeting the government targets. 'Staff are under a huge amount of pressure and the funding hasn't been keeping pace. For ambulance trusts, it is a requirement to meet the standards. You either have to put a huge amount of money in or make changes to working practices. In doing that, you obviously have tension.'

Ambulance Service Association president Malcolm Hazell said of the report: 'I think you can have an overly command and control aspect. Bullying is unacceptable...and it is not something that the ASA would countenance.'

A spokeswoman for CHI said it was confident that the review was 'a robust process involving a review team with many years' varied experience' and that 'we wouldn't expect the whole team to come from that exact area'.

She added: 'We are pleased the senior management has accepted the report.'

The trust has been managed by interim chief executive Graham Butland since January. Anthony Marsh, currently operations director at Greater Manchester Ambulance Service trust, takes over as chief executive in April.

Trust chair Brian Goodwin said:

'CHI's criticisms of the trust's maganagement style were 'a major area of concern to us and we fully accept that some issues could have been better managed'.

He added: 'This report accurately reflects where the trust has been in the past, but not where it is today or where it is going.'