Senior civil servant takes top job at St John Ambulance

St John Ambulance has appointed a senior civil servant at the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to be its next chief executive.

Shona Dunn will join the charity in September after almost 30 years as a civil servant.

She is current second permanent secretary at the DHSC and has held senior roles at the Department for the Environment, Department for Education and the Home Office.

Dunn replaces Martin Houghton-Brown who left in March after six years leading the charity.

“Through nearly 30 years of public service, I have seen the importance of supporting communities to stay safe and healthy, and the impact it can have when that comes under strain,” said Dunn.

“The role that St John people play, day in day out, in supporting communities up and down the country, has never been more important.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with every one of our dedicated volunteers and employees to ensure that this cherished and valuable institution is able to serve and support communities for generations to come.”

St John Ambulance chair Stuart Shilson added: “We feel extraordinarily fortunate to have Shona joining us at this important time.  She has genuine commitment to the things we care about at St John, and the skills and temperament to lead us into the future.” 

Last year the charity revealed that one in ten of its staff could be impacted by a restructure.

Its annual report released earlier that year admitted the charity is facing financial challenges including high inflation and the cost-of-living crisis’ impact on its income.

This annual report also revealed that it had lost almost 4,000 volunteers conceding that its “basic processes” around recruitment “can still be and feel incredibly clunky”.



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