A former ambulance trust chief executive has hit back at a report in which staff branded him a 'benevolent dictator', under whose leadership targets were put before patient safety.

Roger Thayne, who stood down from his role at the former Staffordshire Ambulance Service trust in March 2006, plans to complain to the health ombudsman about the Healthcare Commission report published last week.

The commission launched an investigation into the trust in January 2007 after serious concerns were raised in August 2006 over clinical governance, management and safety arrangements.

The investigation found the trust relied on poorly trained volunteers to get to emergencies before paramedics. These "community first responders" were supplied with controlled drugs that they were not legally permitted to possess, the report said.

In addition, it said, medicines were regularly unaccounted for, due to poor recording and monitoring.

The report stated that many staff spoke of Mr Thayne with "admiration, and on occasion affection" but also gave examples of "subtle bullying". He was described by staff as a "benevolent dictator". This meant some managers felt they were not always "allowed to manage".

But Mr Thayne, who fell out with the Department of Health after criticising plans to merge the trust with ambulance services across the West Midlands, claimed there was no evidence of the trust causing harm to any patients or staff.

"I have a military style of management because I spent 32 years in the military. I did not find that the NHS leadership style was effective or always resulted in putting patients first," he said. "The NHS doesn't think that chief executives should put their heads above the parapet. If they did, they wouldn't have people coming into hospitals and catching infections and elderly patients being malnourished."

A spokesman for West Midlands Ambulance Service trust said: "We accept the findings [of the report] and have already made massive strides to tackle the issues raised."

Staff have undertaken additional training and a specialist pharmacy adviser has been appointed to help with medicines management. A full review has been undertaken into community first responders' training.

After his departure, Mr Thayne was interim chief executive of the Welsh Ambulance Services trust for two months. He claims he left when he was asked to authorise a substantial pay-off for former chief executive Don Page. Mr Thayne is now chair of Staffordshire probation service.

A Welsh Ambulance Services trust spokesperson would not confirm or deny Mr Thayne's claims over the size of the pay-off offered to the former chief executive, but said: "[Mr Thayne's] official reason given at the time was to step aside for someone who could offer a long-term commitment to ensuring the stability of the trust."