THE boss of the Westcountry’s NHS ambulance service has announced he is quitting his job – but did not say when.

Former Navy Rear Admiral Will Warrender has been chief executive of South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT) for three years.

Mr Warrender previously served 32 years in the Royal Navy, where he recruited and trained Naval and Royal Marines personnel and was commander of five warships.

He took over at SWAST at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and led the organisation through some of its most challenging times.

He is also the national lead for employee wellbeing and suicide prevention at the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives (AACE).

However, SWASFT has been the subject of much criticism over waits of 12 hours or more for ambulances to attend incidents such as elderly people suffering falls, while controversy has surrounded proposed new shift patterns with centralised ambulance hubs.

Some of the 5,500 staff have claimed the changes would not cut waiting times for patients, and some drivers would have to make two-and-a-half-hour round trips from depots.

Mr Warrender’s early announcement means the trust will now start a process to appoint a new chief executive to ensure a transition of leadership ahead of his departure.

SWASFT chairman Stephen Otter said: “On behalf of the board I would like to thank Will for his contribution to the trust during the most challenging time for the NHS and ambulance services in particular.

“Will has dedicated his career to public service and his unwavering commitment in the South West has been respected and welcomed by staff, patients, and partners alike.

“This approach has led and enabled any of the improvements we have seen in the most adverse circumstances and pressure following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I would like to thank Will for his dedication to public service, the ambulance service, and to our local communities across the South West and I wish him well in his next chapter.”

Mr Warrender said: “Having joined the NHS after 32 years in the Royal Navy, it has been an immense privilege to lead the organisation over the past three years.

“The journey we have been on in this time is extraordinary and I am proud of the way we have handled the impact and aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, together with other pressures facing urgent and emergency care in the South West.

“We have a new, five-year strategy and a robust plan in place which is starting to deliver palpable improvements in the care we provide to patients across the region.

“On a personal level I feel it is now the right time for me to move on and hand over the reins to my successor to lead the organisation through the next chapter of its development.

“I would like to thank every member of the trust and our incredible volunteers who continue to perform brilliantly.

“My thanks to all of our partners across emergency services and the health and care systems in the South West who contribute to a system approach that is critical to the services we provide to our patients and communities.

“I would also like to thank regional colleagues who helped me to make the transition from a different part of the public sector to the NHS.”