A trailblazing trust chief executive has launched an outspoken attack on Department of Health officials over their alleged failure to acknowledge his trust's success in being first to meet a new 999 response-time target.

Roger Thayne, chief executive of Staffordshire Ambulance Service trust, said the DoH had effectively refused to publicise the fact that his trust's unique 999 dispatch system has outperformed those piloting government-backed priority-dispatch systems .

Mr Thayne claimed the failure to recognise his trust obscured the development of good practice. 'I am challenging the civil servants in the DoH responsible for producing the statistics.

Where people do achieve the standards, the DoH has a duty to say so, ' he said.

He added: 'I do not believe the health secretary wants anything other than good practice to be shouted from the rooftops.'

Mr Thayne, who is known within the service as a maverick, said officials had intimated his job may be on the line over his comments, the latest in a series of outbursts, but he was determined to speak out. 'If managers cannot speak out and discuss these things, mistakes are going to be swept under the carpet and good practice is not going to be disseminated, ' he told HSJ .

The source of the row is the adoption of priority-dispatch systems by eight ambulance trusts. More trusts are expected to adopt the system, which is designed to 'prioritise' 999 calls so that urgent calls are dealt with first.

Staffordshire has championed a different system, which aims to reach patients more quickly by putting ambulances on standby closer to where 999 incidents are statistically more likely to happen.

A new response-time target was introduced last year for services using priority dispatch. It requires them to reach 75 per cent of life-threatening calls in eight minutes. No trust met the target in 1997-98.

Staffordshire says it reached 75.7 per cent of life-threatening calls in eight minutes.

The DoH refused to allow the Staffordshire figures to be used on the grounds that they were not comparable.

'We do not want to take away from his achievement, but there is not a level playing field, ' a DoH spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, a local Unison official, Frank Knox, has piled pressure on Mr Thayne by calling for an official investigation into claims from some staff that 999 response times were not being recorded correctly. Mr Thayne rejected the allegation, which he said was not supported by internal or external audits.

Staffordshire was the runner-up in HSJ 's acute provider management awards last November for its dispatch system, called System Status Management. Judges, who included Institute of Health Services Management president Peter Homa, declared the system 'impressive' and its 'system and principles entirely transferable.'