BREAKING: Ambulance chief Phil Milligan makes sudden departure

Public meeting to discuss planned changes to the ambulance service. Pictured is EMAS chief exec Phil Milligan  (w121022-2a)
Public meeting to discuss planned changes to the ambulance service. Pictured is EMAS chief exec Phil Milligan (w121022-2a)

Controversial ambulance chief Phil Milligan has left his role at the top of East Midlands Ambulance Service after less than two years.

He will be replaced by EMAS NHS Trust’s director of finance and performance, Jon Sargeant, until a permanent successor is appointed.

Mr Milligan gained notoriety during his time as chief executive.

Particularly unpopular was his spearheading of the ‘Being The Best’ consultation, which planned to close dozens of ambulance stations across the region.

But campaigners swung into action and forced the Trust to downgrade its plans, saving many stations from closure including Worksop and Retford.

Mr Milligan’s departure comes after EMAS was criticised by healthcare watchdog the Care and Quality Commission (CQC), which found that staff shortages were putting patients in danger because ambulances were not reaching them quickly enough.

Claims of workplace bullying, overworked staff and ambulances missing their targets have also marred the organisation in recent months.

The Trust was fined £3.5 million earlier this year for missing a national target for responding to emergency calls.

And it has been rated among the worst performing in the country since it was formed from six local services in 2006.

“Phil led the organisation through a time of significant change,” said Jon Towler, chairman of the EMAS Board.

“He leaves EMAS in a considerably better shape and with a clear plan for the future. The whole board extends its thanks for the improvements made and wishes him well for the future.”

Mr Milligan’s NHS career spanned more than 30 years. He first joined EMAS in 1981 as a nurse in the Midlands before going on to take senior roles in both the NHS acute and private healthcare sectors.

Mr Milligan said: “I joined EMAS to make a difference. With the plans in place and progress made I am proud to leave EMAS in a much stronger position.”

“I am looking forwards to spending more time with my family; the role of Chief Executive has been very demanding and has required very long hours to make the progress necessary. It is time for me to take a back seat for a while and to leave the driving to someone else.”

“Clinical care and overall response times are the best they have been for some time thanks to the ‘Being the Best’ programme.”

“I’d like to thank my colleagues at EMAS for their support and hard work in continuing to deliver this important change programme.”

Chief executive of Erewash Clinical Commissioning Group, Rakesh Marwaha said: “It’s thanks to Phil that the ‘Being the Best’ programme came about. It is necessary in order to transform EMAS into an organisation that can give the most effective service to patients in the East Midlands.”

EMAS said it would not be providing interviews or further comments on Mr Milligan’s departure, because its focus was to ‘provide high quality 999 serviced to the public’.