The chief executive of two ambulance trusts has defended his ability to carry out both roles adequately amid criticism from prominent local MPs.
Anthony Marsh, who splits his time between West Midlands Ambulance Service Trust and the troubled East of England Ambulance Service Trust, told LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal his “very flexible” approach to the dual role meant he often worked more than his contracted hours.
He was appointed to East of England in January after carrying out an independent review of the trust.
Mr Marsh’s comments follow criticisms from health minister Dan Poulter and prominent Labour MP Tom Watson, who claim he is overpaid for the split role. Dr Poulter, also the MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich, described Mr Marsh’s £232,000 joint salary as an “obscenely high and a profligate waste of money”.
“Effectively [he] is being paid two salaries at the same time, even though he’s only doing half a job for each ambulance service,” Dr Poulter said.
Mr Watson, the MP for West Bromwich in the West Midlands, described the additional £50,000 Mr Walsh received to run both trusts as a “banker style bonus”.
While Mr Walsh admitted heading both trusts was “really hard work”, he said it created an opportunity to spread best practice.
Although only contracted to work three days a week at the East of England trust, he said he sometimes spent four days in the region. “It does depend what’s happening in both the East of England and the West Midlands,” he added.
The East of England trust defended Mr Marsh’s salary, claiming the arrangement saved £130,000 on the cost of having separate chief executives at both trusts. “By comparison, within the same two areas there are 11 chief fire officers and 10 chief constables, demonstrating the value for money the tax payer is getting,” a trust spokesman said.
Mr Marsh’s dual role is also backed by the NHS Trust Development Authority and the union Unison.
Tim Roberts, eastern regional organiser of Unison, said: “Since Anthony Marsh has been in post he has committed to working in partnership with the union and we are in constructive and positive dialogue with him on a number of issues, which are affecting our members.”
A TDA spokeswoman said the East of England trust “urgently needed strong, experienced and proven leadership to help them address significant challenges and persistent poor performance”.
She said the TDA agreed with the trust’s board that Mr Marsh would be “the best interim appointment”, given that it “had been unsuccessful in substantively recruiting a suitable candidate with the right expertise”.
She said: “Having a highly experienced ambulance service chief executive in place as soon as possible was a much better option than undertaking another lengthy round of substantive recruitment, with no guarantee of finding the right leader to accelerate the trust’s progress.”