HSE 'not loved' by public, says chief

Fri, Nov 30, 2012, 00:00

It is a“great tragedy” that the Irish health system is not loved by the public it serves, the chief executive designate of the Health Service Executive, Tony O’Brien, has said.

Mr O’Brien contrasted the affection that British people had for the NHS with the attitudes of Irish people to the HSE.

He joked he had been appointed on the day that the London Olympics opened and had a dream that the letters NHS which were spelled out as part of Danny Boyle’s opening ceremony were replaced with the letters HSE.

“In truth it was a nightmare,” he told the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Assocation annual conference yesterday.

“All joking aside, there is a serious undertone. I believe that we can build a collection of health services that one day our population can love and cherish and defend and have the same instinctive attachment to it. The NHS is far from perfect but it is loved.”

Mr O’Brien said he was born in an NHS hospital and he could “intrinsically connect with the affection that people in the UK have for their health service”.

Failed organisation

He described himself as the chief executive of an organisation he did not love though the quality of most of the people involved and the quality of care was good. “As an organisational construct it has failed and we need to move on from it. That is essentially the job I have been given,” he said.

In a strongly worded address he criticised the “overbearing command and control approach” which was there at the creation of the HSE.

This had “infantilised leadership and management”, “stifled enterprise” and “sucked the life out of many good managers” who had taken the exit packages “to get the hell out of there”.

“My only reason for wanting this job is to restore the ability for frontline service providers to do their job, pure and simple,” he said. A paper will be published next month on universal social insurance.