A French booze cruise in an ambulance vehicle, collusion to award friends professional contracts, wasting public money, using formal disciplinary meetings to win a personal grudge match - and now this man is assistant chief executive of our ambulance trust.

It has emerged East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust (EEAST) second in command, Paul Leaman, was guilty of a catalogue of misconduct while working as director of operations at Essex Ambulance Service.

Mr Leaman came to EEAST and took the senior role under interim chief executive Anthony Marsh who spoke on behalf of Mr Leaman at his disciplinary hearing in 2009.

Mr Leaman and others were involved in stripping an NHS people carrier of its branding, removing the seats and taking it to France on a two-day booze cruise to purchase alcohol.

In addition, Mr Leaman was found to have pressured junior staff into placing orders with a firm called Alliance Trading, the owner of which, it transpired, was a friend of his.

In one instance Mr Leaman distorted the tender process with the supply of patient report forms.

Alliance Trading was one of four companies invited to tender, and originally bid £14,280.

When the tenders were in, Mr Leaman sent his assistant to the supplies officer to collect the documentation and a short while later, Alliance Trading revised its previous quote to slightly below £10,180 - the lowest tender.

Mr Leaman was also found to have inappropriately sanctioned a full formal disciplinary meeting for a colleague who had previously made complaints about his conduct.

At the subsequent employment tribunal, Mr Leaman was found not to have carried out a proper investigation and the punishment was disproportionate to the misconduct. 

Mr Leaman was suspended by the HCPC for 12 months in 2009.

Joy Hale, ambulance trust spokesman, said the role he is in is a temporary one only and as such did not require a recruitment process to be followed.

She said: "This is a matter that dates back 13 years and was dealt with at the time using the trust’s disciplinary process as would be the case for any member of staff.

"Mr Leaman has worked at a senior level for many years and, with his extensive experience, is well placed to lead on this piece of work - helping to save £10 million from back office and management functions.

"The cost savings are already being invested in frontline services such as the 400 new staff and a new fleet of ambulances - investments that are actively helping to save lives and improve the service provided to patients across the region."