PERFORMANCE: The non-executive directors of East of England Ambulance Service Trust have resigned en masse following a barrage of criticism from MPs and a withering report on the trust’s performance and leadership.

All five non-executive directors at the trust have stepped down over the past three days, after they were severely criticised in a parliamentary debate on Tuesday.

The first resignation – of Caroline Bailes – was announced by the trust’s recently appointed chairman Geoff Harris after its board meeting on Wednesday. Today (Friday) the trust issued a statement confirming that the four remaining non-executives had followed suit.

The statement said the trust was “drawing a line in the sand” after receiving “resignations from Margaret Stockham, Paul Remington, Anne Osborn, and Phil Barlow with immediate effect”.

It added: “The non-executive directors have taken these actions in the best interests of patients and the Trust and didn’t want the issue of their roles to side-track the trust from having an unrelenting focus on patients, the care they’re given, and the service they receive.

“The Trust will be securing some interim non-executive support to ensure the Board can continue to operate. In the meantime the recruitment process for new Board members has started and two of these posts are already being advertised.”

Dr Harris added: “We must maintain our focus on continuing to drive up the service to patients whilst I focus on putting a new Board in place.”

Earlier this week the trust’s non-executives were lambasted by politicians in a Westminster Hall debate on its performance.

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.”