Press Release

Press Release – Minister makes key appointments to hospital groups

The establishment of Hospital Groups followed by Hospital Trusts to manage public hospitals is a key element of the reform of the health service in Ireland. In December last, Dr James Reilly, Minster for Health, announced new management arrangements for two groups of hospitals in the West and Mid West. Since the Minister’s announcement, the “Report of the investigation into the quality, safety and governance of the care provided by Tallaght Hospital for patients who require acute admission” was published. Today’s announcement by the Minister of three key appointments is entirely in keeping with the reform programme as well as the recommendations of the Report.

Professor John R Higgins has been appointed to work with the Special Delivery Unit (SDU) in the role of Chair of a Strategic Board to assist the Department of Health in the design and establishment of Hospital Groups. As Chair, he will have a key role in implementing the agreed Project Plan for the creation of Hospital Groups initially and ultimately Independent Hospital Trusts.

In addition, Mr Noel Daly has been appointed to the role of Chair the Galway Roscommon University Hospital Group and Professor Niall O’Higgins has been appointed as Chair of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital Group. The term of the appointments is for three years and the boards of the groups will be established initially on a non-statutory basis.

The two new hospital group Chairmen, working in consultation with the Chair of the Strategic Board, will have  key roles in the development of effective corporate and clinical governance structures for the groups along with the quality and safety of systems of care in place for patients of the hospital groups. Central to this will be overseeing the implementation of the relevant recommendations of the HIQA report in relation to Tallaght Hospital.

The Minister identified a number of key responsibilities for the Chairmen including:-

  • Ensuring compliance with the Code of Practice for Governance of State Bodies,
  • Undertaking an assessment of the composition, competency profile and potential conflicts of interest of potential board members and making the necessary changes required to ensure that the board is constituted appropriately and in accordance with modern day corporate governance of boards,
  • Mandatory board induction programme for new board members and mandatory on-going development programme for board members which the Department will address this at a national level,
  • Clear definition of the role and function of the board;,
  • Oversight of the building of strategic partnerships with other key stakeholders so that the organisation does not operate in isolation of the national and local system for delivery of care and support to its population,
  • ensuring that a clear scheme of delegation of accountability from the board to the Chief Executive and executive directors is designed, taking account of the interim accountability arrangements put in place by the HSE to manage the transition towards the establishment of the independent, competing Trusts planned as part of the programme for government,
  • Ensuring that there are annually agreed objectives in place for the Chief Executive that accurately reflects the realm of their accountability, responsibility, and authority.

The Minister believes it is essential that the business of the board is conducted in an open and transparent manner with the maximum amount of its meetings held in public by June 2013 including an Annual General Meeting in public from 2013. He has also instructed that a self-evaluation of the board should be carried out and arrangements should be in place to facilitate staff to raise concerns about the quality and safety of patient care and for consideration of information provided by external sources, including patient advocates, in relation to the delivery of safe care to patients.

Speaking of the appointments, the Minister said “the leadership skills, knowledge and experience these three gentlemen bring to these important roles will be invaluable. I wish them well in these important roles and assure them of my support.  They will be supported and overseen in their endeavours by the Special Delivery Unit in my Department”

Establishment of oversight group

In a separate but related development following publication of the HIQA Report, Minister Reilly has established an oversight group to oversee the implementation of its significant recommendations. The group will be chaired by Dr Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer. Minister Reilly said “I am pleased to say that four leading international experts in patient safety and governance have agreed to join this group and support us in this task”.  The group will begin its work before the end of June.

The confirmed membership of the Group is:-

  • Dr Beth Lilja , Director, Danish Society for Patient Safety
  • Dr Carol Peden, Royal United Hospital, Bath
  • Mr David Dalton, CEO, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust
  • Mr Gerry Marr, CEO, NHS Board Headquarters
  • Dr Deirdre Madden, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, University College Cork
  • Dr Fergus Clancy, Chairman, Independent Hospital Association of Ireland

Confirmation is awaited from two further members.

Notes for Editors

Professor John Higgins

Professor Higgins is the UCC Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) and the Head of College of Medicine & Health at UCC

A native of Dungannon, Co. Tyrone, Professor Higgins graduated from the medical school of Trinity College Dublin in 1988. He trained initially in internal medicine. He commenced clinical and academic training at the Rotunda Hospital and the TCD Department of Obstetrics & Gynaecology.  He then undertook a fellowship at the University of Melbourne, Perinatal Research Centre at the Royal Women’s Hospital, Melbourne.

He was appointed Senior Lecturer at the University of Melbourne and Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist in the Mercy Hospital for Women in 2000.

His academic leadership resulted in him being awarded the 1999 Blair-Bell Lectureship by the Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists and the Ella MacKnight Memorial Lectureship 2000 by the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists

He returned to Ireland to take up the UCC Chair in Obstetrics & Gynaecology in 2001. At the same time, he assumed the clinical leadership of the Maternity Services in Cork

He has a deep interest in organisational reform and change management. He gained unique experience from leading the amalgamation of three maternity hospitals to form the new state-of-the art Cork University Maternity Hospital.  He was also the Director of Reconfiguration of the Health system in Cork and Kerry from 2009 to 2011.  He currently chairs the Reconfiguration Forum for Cork and Kerry.  In 2011 he was appointed Head College Medicine and Health at UCC.

Professor Higgins has been highly influential on the national stage; he was a member of the Executive Committee of the Institute of Obstetrician & Gynaecologists for ten years. He has made significant contributions to the specialty including chairing the Institute national report – Maternity and Gynaecological Services in Ireland 2006-2016.  He is a member of the consultant committee of the Irish Medical Organisation

In his late forties, Professor Higgins is a practising Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at CUMH.  He is married to Ann; they have six children aged eight to twenty years.

Professor Niall O’Higgins

Professor O’Higgins is currently Professor Emeritus of Surgery, University College Dublin.

He is from Limerick, attended school at Crescent College and later Clongowes Wood College

Graduated from Medical School in University College Dublin and received his surgical training in Ireland and England, mainly at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, London.

Appointed the Professor and Chair of the University College Dublin Department of Surgery and Consultant Surgeon (St Vincent’s University Hospital) in1977, a position he held for 30 years.

General surgeon with special interest in surgical oncology, especially breast cancer.  Involved in over 200 peer-reviewed scientific publications, mainly on breast cancer research and clinical surgery.  Co-editor of major textbook of surgery.

Invited lectures throughout Europe, US and Canada, Middle East, Far East, Australia and New Zealand, mainly on aspects of cancer, endocrine surgery and surgical training.

Received Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and of the American College of Surgeons. Awarded Honorary Fellowships from the College of Surgeons of South Africa, Bangladesh and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow.

Received the President’s Gold Medal of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.   Former President of the European Society of Surgical Oncology, and of the Federation of European Cancer Societies.  Chairman of the Accreditation Council for Oncology in Europe. Consultant to the European Institute of Oncology, Milan

Former President of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Extensive involvement in establishing a system of breast cancer services and in  BreastCheck, the National Breast Cancer Screening Service and in the establishment of guidelines of quality of care for breast cancer in Ireland and in Europe. Chairman of Expert Group on colorectal cancer screening in Ireland.

Mr Noel Daly

Mr Daly is a native of Co Roscommon, with a distinguished career in the health services at home and overseas. He was Chief Executive of An Bord Altranais (The Nursing Board) from 1982-1988 and served in senior management positions in healthcare in the UK and USA before establishing The Health Partnership in Ireland in 2004. He also worked as a consultant to the World Health Organisation and other appointments included Chair of London First Health Group (appointed by Mayor of London) 2000-2002 and Chair of Meret Healthcare (Primary Care Company) 2008-2011. Mr Daly retired as managing director of The Health Partnership in December 2011 and as voluntary chairman in April 2012.


  • B.A in Economics/English NUI Galway;
  • HDE; NUI Maynooth;
  • M.A in Organisational Psychology, Univ of Ulster.
  • Other: Fellow of British Inst of Management.


  • Secondary Teacher; Education Officer before joining health service
  • Head of Education and Training, Health Education Bureau
  • CEO An Bord Altranais 1982-1988
  • Executive Director First Data Health Systems 1988-95 (Based in USA for 2 years).
  • Vice President HBOC 1995-97
  • Partner First Consulting Group (largest independent healthcare consultancy in USA) 1997-2002. Based in London for 3 years.
  • Managing Director ReedSmith Healthcare 2002-04
  • Founder and Managing Director The Health Partnership 2004—to Dec 2011. Retired as MD in Dec 2011 Currently Chairman on voluntary basis till April 2012.


  • Council of Europe Fellowship 1984. Studied Healthcare Systems in Finland and UK
  • Consultant with World Health Organisation between 1979 and 1987 on various assignments. Seconded  from service here. Worked on assignments in USA; Zambia; Tanzania; Liberia and Kenya. Also worked at HQ in Geneva.
  • Consultant with Scottish Home and Health Department on project in 1980

Government Appointments:

  • Member of Commission on Consumer Education
  • Member of Commission on Adult Education
  • Member of Interdepartmental Committee on Drug Use and Education
  • Member of Comhairle na nOspideal 1985-88
  • Chairman of Committee on Neuro Surgery Services 1987-88
  • Chairman of London First Health Group (appointed by Mayor of London) 2000-2002


  • Chairman, Meret Healthcare (Primary Care Company) 2008-2011