Joint Committee on Health Meeting

3rd July 2019

 Opening Statement

Mr. Ciarán Devane


HSE Board

I would like to thank the Chairperson and Members of the Committee for the invitation to attend today, in my first full week as the Chairperson of the new Board of the Health Service Executive.

And I would like to introduce Mr. Jim O’Sullivan who joins me today who we have appointed as Secretary to the Board.

The Minister for Health signed the commencement order for the Health Service Executive (Governance) Act 2019 last week and he took the opportunity to attend the first meeting of the new Board on Friday. The establishment of an independent Board to oversee the HSE is a really important step in improving the governance of the health service and one of the key recommendations of the Sláintecare report which is the first of two reasons I am privileged to be here with you today. I and my fellow Board members will make as good a contribution as we possibly can to achieve what your expectations were in that report.

The second reason I’m privileged to be here is that, in deciding to apply I of course read the Sláintecare report. It is one of those documents that as you turn the pages you get more and more excited, and impressed. I know I am not alone on the Board in saying that having that plan and the cross party support for it was a large part of why I went for the role.

From my perspective, I would like the focus of today’s engagement to be on questions you have so I won’t dwell too long on my opening statement. Your invitation referred to gaining an insight into my experience and vision for the role I thought it would be useful to give you some insight into my own background and why I answered the call of the Minister for Health to take on this role in one of the most important institutions in the country and one which is never far from public discourse.

I was educated, as Gaeilge, in Coláiste Mhuire and as a chemical engineer at UCD. My work experience to date has largely been in the UK with some time in the US and continental Europe. My early career was in the chemical and life sciences industry, followed by time in management consulting where most of what I did was run complex change programmes in large multi-national companies.

At the moment I am Chief Executive of the British Council and have been since 2015. I have focused while at the BC on aligning the Council behind key themes important to the UK in Educational and in Culture. and strengthening the organisation’s capacity and capability across its network of offices in 115 countries.

It is probably the bit in the middle which is more obviously aligned with the HSE. From 2007 I was Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support where I helped the organisation reshape cancer services across the UK, both on its own and in collaboration with other organisations, leading to Macmillan being the public’s most respected charity in the UK. Some of what we did was about new care models, the use of data to measure and improve outcomes, and a focus on patient experience.

In terms of governance, I have held non-executive roles on the boards of a range of organisations from small local charities to the Board of NHS England which commissions healthcare for the population of England. There are differences as well as similarities between the HSE and NHS England. Both however are the organisations and Boards with the ultimate accountability for spending taxpayer’s money to deliver the best possible healthcare for the available money for the population of the jurisdiction.

I believe that my experience to date puts me in a good position to lead the Board of the HSE on its transformational journey as set out in Sláintecare, while holding the Executive to account for delivering to the plan. In doing so we will have the credibility to make the changes needed to have a health service which will continue to serve the public into the future.

The Board had its first formal meeting on Friday, but we have got together informally a few times to help us learn as effectively as possible. I am really pleased with the calibre of those the Minister has appointed to the Board of the HSE and I know that they, like myself and indeed all those who work in the Public Health Service, have a driving ambition to ensure that we in Ireland have a world class health system that we can all be proud of.

The Board currently comprises ten other members, with an additional member to be appointed by the Minister shortly. The appointees are I feel appropriately varied, and have the range of competencies including- clinical and corporate governance, patient advocacy, strategic planning, change management and financial management - necessary to enable the Board to govern and lead the HSE given its size and complexity.

I also welcome the recent appointment of Mr. Paul Reid as Chief Executive Officer and I look forward to working alongside Paul and his Executive colleagues to further our shared ambitions.

The cross-party political support that underpinned the development of Sláintecare provides Ireland with a unique, once in a generation opportunity, to build the kind of health service that this country deserves. As a Board we must do all we can to exploit the momentum for change that has been started in reaching agreement on Sláintecare.

We must however, ensure that there are appropriate systems and controls in place to ensure that financial stability and predictability of the HSE and the support of the Board to the Executive is vital to ensuring we develop public confidence in our financial management and to ensuring we target scarce resources in the best possible manner.

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet with the incoming Board members, with officials and with Ministers informally prior to the Board’s formal appointment to agree the key elements of our priorities.

These include:

  • Developing and implementing an effective performance management and accountability system in the HSE;
  • Developing a plan for building public trust and confidence in the HSE and the wider health service;
  • Ensuring the HSE’s full support for and implementation of the Government’s programme of health reform as set out in the Sláintecare Implementation Plan;
  • Supporting the leadership and staff of the HSE to continue to improve health outcomes of the public.

Before I finish I would like to point out that we, as a nation, have a great deal to be proud of in our health services. In particular the huge strides that we have made in increasing like expectancy and reducing morbidity.

Since 1990 life expectancy in Ireland has increased by almost seven years. In an average year, the life expectancy of our population typically goes up three months. In a typical day it goes up six hours. And this is (again on average) true every day of every year since 1990. That is an astonishing achievement.

Of course there is more to be done and I look forward, on behalf of the Board to working with the full range of stakeholders to build a better health service.

That concludes my opening statement. I am happy of course to respond to any questions and to provide any clarity you may require as best I can.

Go raibh maith agaibh


Last updated on: 03 / 07 / 2019