Latest leadership message: Robert Morton

Robert Morton, CEO

This week I want to focus on apprenticeships, fleet, the annual leave policy and tell you a little about the engagement the executives and I have been carrying out since the end of May. 

You may have seen that we’re working on our apprenticeship schemes for EMTs. In the past we’ve had several disparate training programmes, which has meant lots of repetition in training to comply with each course. The apprenticeship scheme will streamline this process, allowing for smooth progression. This is still dependent on availability of spaces. More information will be coming out soon around this. 

Dr Tom and I recently visited Westminster with NHS Improvement and our lead commissioner to brief our region’s MPs. We talked about the risk summit actions which we were tasked with completing, and the Independent Service Review and the positive impact it would have on our workforce and fleet. It was positive to see such support coming from Parliament as we step up our recruitment campaigns to fill our capacity gap. 

Over the past few weeks, crews have welcomed executives into their stations and EOCs.  I spent time in Harlow, where people were talking about the service delivery restructure, the development of staff in the main, and HART in Great Notley. I know that there is a specific piece of work for DLOs to get involved in how they shape how the new roles will work. My fellow executives have told me about some of your incredible stories, like Sarah-Jane Blamire, based in Norfolk, who kayaked out to a patient, showing the quick thinking and patient-focused mentality you all display, and the PTS staff working so hard and with such care to deliver non-emergency patient care to individuals needing medical supported transport. The Early Intervention Vehicles have been getting some great feedback, including from Giles Watling MP in Essex, and from most of the Norfolk CCGs who are keen to continue to use them because of the fantastic impact on shared learning across all clinicians in the NHS and care networks. 

On Wednesday I met with the Minister for Health Stephen Barclay, who is also a Cambridgeshire MP. He had many questions, which I was able to answer, and there are some actions I have taken away to work with our system colleagues on. 

I fully understand that there are concerns around our announcement of the annual leave policy changes. You work incredibly hard. My role as the Trust’s Accountable Officer is to ensure the services we are commissioned to provide are delivered against contractual metrics and against the funding provided by our commissioners. I am also held to account to deliver this by our main regulator, NHS Improvement, to whom I am personally accountable. As CEO, I also want to ensure that staff are supported and protected as much as possible. You all know that the Trust has been the subject of a regulatory led and directed Risk Summit. The outcome of the Risk Summit was very clear in that we have a significant gap between demand and capacity which inevitably puts pressure on all of us. 

One of directions from the Risk Summit was to increase the availability of staff over the winter period by controlling the allocation of annual leave over the busy winter period. It is obviously not just about controlling the level of annual leave. We are also working with acute trusts to reduce handover delays and we have made good progress. Teams are also working hard to bring in bank and private staff to fill as much of the capacity gap as possible. We have said for many years that we do not have the staff – and now we have the confidence of the regulators and our commissioners to fund and train our future colleagues. It will take time. Time will tell whether or not these restrictions improve our capacity to respond to patients. The reality is that such restrictions are not a long term answer to the capacity gap that has developed over many years. However, the sustainable solution will take time to implement, i.e. more staff. For those that are wondering, the same restrictions also apply to managers and the Executive Team. A full set of answers to your questions will be released in the next week.   

Our trials of new vehicles will be drawing to a close at the end of summer. We’ve had four vehicles out and about across the region, so are currently gathering data and experiences from crews who have had the opportunity  to use the vehicles about the pros and cons of each design. We’ll collate everything we’ve learned and make a final decision soon after. We will need to go out to tender in the autumn to secure a successful bidder(s) to begin replacement of our existing fleet from 2019 onwards as well as grow our fleet to support the new staff coming on board. We want to make sure you have the right tools to enable you to do your jobs to the best of your ability.

We are also working towards the full introduction of the Specialist Paramedic role within the Trust. It’s al incredibly exciting time for paramedicine, allowing patients to be seen and treated and be far less likely to be taken to hospital. The idea of rotating staff between different clinical environments as well means learning can be bought back to the front line and shared with other colleagues. All of this means more resources available for life threatening emergencies, while non urgent cases can be given the appropriate time and care required. More information on what the role will entail can be found in this video from Health Education England.

As Kevin mentioned last week, we’re looking for people to feature in #HumansOfEEAST on Instagram. This campaign links with NHS 70 and aims to shine a light on people across the region, staff, patients or otherwise, who have been involved in some way in the NHS and ambulance service in the last 70 years. If you would like to get involved or know someone who would please email

After an intensely competitive recruitment process, involving a high calibre group of candidates, it gives me great pleasure to announce that Tracy Nicholls will be our new Director of Clinical Quality and Improvement. She will not only be another paramedic on the Trust’s executive board, but also the first female paramedic on any ambulance service board in the country. Tracy will also be the only paramedic to undertake this role at this time across ambulance trusts in England. Anyone who knows Tracy through her work with the College of Paramedics will know how passionate she is about patient safety, quality and experience. Tracy has worked her way up from PTS to this role over a 24-year career, starting in Luton, working in our training department and moving into more senior clinical roles later on. Well done Tracy. 

Tracy’s appointment, together with Dr. Tom Davis as our first full time Medical Director bring both the Executive Team and Trust Board back to a substantive and stable position. 

As always, have a safe week and take care.


Published 14th June 2018

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