Head of Reilly’s special delivery unit to leave

Martin Connor to depart a year early

Martin Connor, senior policy the adviser to the special delivery unit at the Department of Health and Children is to leave his post.

Martin Connor, senior policy the adviser to the special delivery unit at the Department of Health and Children is to leave his post.

Thu, May 30, 2013, 01:00

The British expert appointed by Minister for Health James Reilly to cut hospital waiting lists and the number of people on trolleys in emergency departments is to leave his post.

The Irish Times understands that Dr Martin Connor, senior policy adviser to the special delivery unit set up by the Minister, will step down after the summer, more than a year earlier than set out under his contract.

Dr Connor’s company, Value Based Solutions, was paid €250,000 by the Department of Health for a six-month contract between June and November 2011. It was then engaged on a subsequent three-year contract worth €400,000.

Senior health service sources said the departure of Dr Connor would coincide with a “repositioning” of the special delivery unit in the new directorate structure being established in the Health Service Executive.

Department of Health sources said the unit had been working extremely well but in future it would not operate as a standalone operation. It would report to the new acute hospital directorate in the HSE, to be headed by former chief executive of St James’s Hospital Ian Carter.

The special delivery unit was set up following Dr Reilly’s appointment as Minister in 2011 to spearhead improvements in performance management in hospitals.

Government sources said there had always been a working assumption that it would have a maximum of three years to “mainstream” improvements in the hospital system.

They said the special delivery unit “brand” would continue but there would be “a passing of the baton of performance management to the new HSE directorate structure”.

As part of the HSE restructuring, the chief executive of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, Leo Kearns, has been co-opted to the health authority for a two-year period. He will run a new systems review office attached to the office of HSE director general Tony O’Brien.

Government sources said this office would seek to drive performance management and improvement in other parts of the health service such as primary and community care.

In other changes, the unit’s head of scheduled care, Dr Alan Smith, is also understood to be leaving. Sources said he was to return to practice and that the head of unscheduled care, Lis Nixon, would be remaining on. Ms Nixon is employed on a three-year contract worth €164,000 a year. Government sources said Dr Connor’s contract would be paid only until he finished working with the unit.

The special delivery unit had succeeded in reducing waiting lists and curbing the numbers on trolleys in emergency units over the last year or so.

Numbers up
However, recently waiting list numbers had begun to increase. Figures published by the National Treatment Purchase Fund last week showed the number of patients waiting longer than six months for hospital treatment had nearly doubled since the end of last year.

The Department of Health has announced a new “intervention strategy” with a special fund of €18 million. Government sources said it was confident its waiting list targets for the year would be met. Earlier this month The Irish Times reported that the special delivery unit was costing about €2 million per year.