PERFORMANCE: Two non-executive directors are stepping down from the East of England Ambulance Service board following a barrage of criticism from MPs and a withering report on the trust’s performance and leadership.
Announcements of resignations by two of the trust’s six non-executive directors came after a parliamentary debate this week in which MPs lambasted the trust’s “incompetence”.
In a statement issued following the trust’s board meeting on 26 June, its recently appointed chairman Geoff Harris announced he had accepted the resignation of non-executive director Caroline Bailes.
“My top priority is reviewing the capability and capacity of board leadership at the trust,” he said.
“As a result I have accepted her decision to resign as part of my remit to reconstitute the board.”
The trust statement added: “[Ms Bailes] is leaving to enable her to focus more of her time on work matters away from the ambulance service.”
A second non-executive director, Margaret Stockham, later announced her own intention to resign on Twitter. Ms Stockham tweeted: “The news is out … Have stepped down from NED of EEAST. Sorry to leave but wish the board and their great staff all the best for the future.”
The trust’s non-executive directors were severely criticised in a parliamentary debate the day before the board meeting.
Therese Coffey, MP for Suffolk Coastal, said: “Until these non-executive directors go we will not have confidence in the leadership of the trust to make a difference.”
Priti Patel, MP for Witham, slammed the trust’s “incompetence”, while health minister Anna Soubry said the trust was another example of a “worrying ‘mates’ culture in the NHS”.
An independent review of the trust’s recent performance failures by West Midlands Ambulance Service Foundation Trust chief executive Anthony Marsh, concluded the trust had been undermined by in-fighting and a “sense of helplessness” among senior managers.
The report, ordered by the Trust Development Authority in March after the trust missed a series of targets including emergency response times, said: “The current trust board and senior management team appear to have developed a sense of ‘helplessness’ i.e. it is what it is.
“There appears to be a lack of accountability throughout the organisation, partly due to a complicated organisational structure and confused managers within the trust.
“This has led to a lack of clarity on both accountability and responsibility, individually and collectively, therefore critical decision making has ceased in some areas.
“The trust has lost focus of the strategic objectives, which may partly be due to the board not fully understanding the purpose of the business.”