THE man in charge of the region's ambulance service has announced he is stepping down.

East of England Ambulance Service Trust chief executive Robert Morton has told staff he will be leaving the post within this financial year.

Huge fears were raised about the way the Trust performed during an exceptionally busy period last winter and concerns were raised in the House of Commons.

A risk summit convened by NHS England and NHS Improvement in response to concerns about ambulance services in the east of England over winter led to an independent analysis which showed there were 100,000 calls made to the trust in a one month period between December and January.

The review said no deaths had been caused as the result of delays but there were 47 people identified whose cases were identified as potential issues, 22 were declared as serious incidents and three people suffered serious harm as a result of ambulances not arriving quick enough.

Last month it was revealed the trust consistently missed the seven minute response time for the most urgent circumstances every month from March to July this year.

The latest Care Quality Commission report ranked the trust as Requires Improvement and said handover times contributed to serious incidents and staff morale was low.

Earlier this year health bosses agreed to boost the amount given to the East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust by £11.5 million. The money will fund 300 extra paramedics and 169 ambulances.

In a statement Mr Morton - who took up the role in 2015 - thanked staff for their "care, compassion and commitment" to patients.

He said: "While I feel privileged to be the chief rxecutive of EEAST my future plans mean I cannot commit to a further three years.

"I feel this is the right time to hand over to someone else.

"I wish to record my thanks to our Trust chair, Sarah Boulton and my board and executive colleagues for their unwavering support and commitment over the last three years.

"I also want to thank staff for their care, compassion and commitment to our patients and to supporting each other.”

Ms Boulton said: "I am sad to say our chief executive Robert Morton has informed me that he is leaving us.

"For three years, he has successfully secured long-lasting changes on behalf of patients and staff. Together, we have found a talented and steadfast board to lead a wider team to deliver those improvements.

"The biggest achievement of the board he built was to secure a six-year contract with our commissioners.

"This means we can recruit more staff over the next three years, and increase the numbers of ambulances we have on the roads.

"As a result, we expect to see improvements in performance, particularly in the least densely populated areas of east of England such as Norfolk and Suffolk.

"Robert’s legacy is a great one. He has had the vision and compassion to get us into a great place, and our highly skilled board members will continue on their course to leading EEAST to becoming a high-performing trust."

Posting online, a spokesman for the trust said: "The achievements and progression made in the past three years have been a team effort with his and executive leadership and we thank Robert for his commitment and focus."

East of England MEP Alex Mayer (Lab) said she hoped a new boss would be found as soon as possible.

She said: “I welcome the resignation and hope that a new chief executive can be found swiftly who will put the concerns of staff and patients at the heart of every decision.

“Our ambulance service can and must do better.

"Patients deserve it and so do our hardworking paramedics.

"We also mustn’t let the Government off hook.

"The whole of our NHS is under pressure.

"Queues at A&E and the crisis is social care all impact on the ambulance service, we need a holistic approach and proper funding across our NHS.”