The under-fire ambulance service for East Anglia has defended plans to pay its new chief executive more than the prime minister.

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The search for a new chief executive for the East of England Ambulance Service has begun with the trust advertising the post with a salary of £145,000.

Union officials last night called on whoever takes on the role to make sure it is money well spent after Hayden Newton, who earned the same six-figure sum, stepped down as head of the NHS trust to take retirement.

The ambulance service has called on the new chief executive to “reignite employees’ passion” at an organisation that is aiming to deliver £50m of savings whilst also striving to secure foundation trust status within the next 12 months.

The trust, which has been criticised by staff and patients for failing to hit response times in recent months, appointed former NHS Norfolk and Waveney chief Andrew Morgan as interim chief executive last month, who expressed his intention to apply for the role on a permanent basis.

In an online advert for the £145,000 a year position, the East of England Ambulance Service said: “We are seeking a commercially astute chief executive who has the drive and ambition to deliver the trust’s vision to be nationally recognised as a leader in emergency, urgent and out of hours hospital care.”

“The successful candidates will need to have credible NHS leadership experience (or related services), be politically aware with exceptional communication and influencing skills. We are seeking an outstanding candidate who has the ability to forge strong stakeholder relationships and can lead with the implementation of the five year strategy to deliver service improvements.”

The trust, which provides ambulance cover for six counties and six million people in the East, employs 4,000 people across 130 sites. The closing date for applications is January 25.

Health regulator Monitor last month deferred the East of England Ambulance Service’s application for foundation trust status because it had failed to hit its 19 minute response time target.

Tony Hughes, regional organiser for the GMB union said: “The most important thing is getting the right person in place doing the right job to turn it around. Obviously it is a lot of money to most people. You could argue that £145,000 is well spent to make sure it happens.”

“The GMB wants to see an ambulance service that is fit for purpose and at the moment it is not.”

A spokesman for the ambulance service said: “The salary needs to reflect the expertise required for the post and to attract the strong leadership and experience necessary to oversee a progressive, quality service for patients while remaining financially stable in challenging times.”

“It is in line with others in similar roles in east of England public bodies and other ambulance CEOs nationally, is set by the Remuneration Committee and is regularly reviewed.”

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