WEST Midlands Ambulance Service has apologised for asking 4,000 of their employees to rate how “cool” Adolf Hitler was.

Employees were asked to rate Hitler from one to five – with one being “not cool” and five being “cool” – as part of a £10,000, year-long study to find out what makes a good leader.

Hitler was one of 10 people on the all-male list, which also included NHS chief executive David Nicholson, NHS West Midlands chief executive Ian Cumming, politicians Gordon Brown and Winston Churchill, sports personalities Fabio Cappello and Martin Johnson and television character Leroy Jethro Gibbs, of NCIS fame.

The questionnaire – which has sparked outrage – was organised by two members of staff and funded by the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority.

A spokesman for the service said several dozen members of staff had completed the survey.

The spokesman, who apologised for any offence caused, said: “At the end of the day, Hitler galvanised a nation into doing something quite unusual.

“Dreadful atrocities took place off the back of that. The staff involved were not trying to cause any offence to anybody.”

The project entitled Making Leadership Cool – How Emerging Leaders Wish to be Managed and Supported, was meant to identify the key characteristics of good leadership, to allow the organisation and NHS to become more efficient and in turn improve patient care.

“The project sought to discuss different styles of leadership and the characteristics of leadership to help staff at all levels develop their career,” said the spokesman.

“In discussing different styles of leadership, a survey which is one small part of the project, sought to include an analysis of the dictatorial style.

“With hindsight, it would have been better to have used a different example to illustrate this.

“There was no intention to cause any offence; it was an examination of well-known examples of this style of leadership.”