Address by Mr Tim O’Malley TD Minister of State at the PPARS Conference


Good morning everyone.

I am very happy to have been asked to come here today to open the Annual PPARS Conference. It gives me great pleasure to be part of this event and to contribute to this very welcome development in information systems in our health services.

Vision for the Health Service

The primary aims of this Government in relation to health were set out in the Health Strategy – Quality and Fairness.  The Government’s vision is to deliver  a “world class health system” for every citizen.  Modern health services extend beyond the traditional GP and hospital setting and go far beyond the curative services.  Provision of health services now embrace a much wider concept of attaining a level of health and wellness for each individual that will allow them to achieve the highest levels of fulfilment in life.

In common with public health services worldwide, our health system is experiencing unprecedented pressures which is driven by higher consumer expectation, developments in all areas of health technologies and the ageing profile of our population.

HR Challenges

Meeting these challenges can only be achieved with a well trained and highly motivated workforce and the approach to delivering on the HR requirements is set out in the Action Plan for People Management which was published in November 2002  This Action Plan has a number of specific themes and objectives which are to

  1. Manage people effectively.
  2. Improve the quality of working life.
  3. Devise and implement best practice employment policies and procedures.
  4. Develop the partnership approach further.
  5. Invest in training, development and education.
  6. Promote improved employee and industrial relations in the health sector.
  7. Develop performance management.

PPARS is a fundamental tool which will enable HR managers to deliver on this Action Plan and on the HR agenda generally.

Size and Scale

Good information is the life blood of any industry and health services are probably one of the most information intensive industries.  Public expenditure on our health services will exceed €10 billion in the current year and the numbers of staff employed is now approaching 100,000.  These numbers are enormous, by any standards.

Our workforce is the primary and most essential importance of the health service.  They account for 70% of annual spend – that is €7 billion. A vast range of health services are provided by staff in a wide range of professional, administrative and support grades at a network of locations which span the entire country.  I have first hand experience of the level of complexity involved from my own areas of current responsibility – Mental Health, Disability and Food Safety – as well as from my earlier experiences in public office with the Health Board and in the pharmaceutical industry.

It is absolutely critical that robust and sophisticated information systems underpin this resource.

Change Management Challenge

At an initial glance, PPARS might be perceived as a technology implementation project.  The reality is that  the Technology aspect of the project is probably a relatively straightforward element of the implementation challenge.  The challenges to implementation of information system are twofold : the Technology Challenge and the Change Management challenge. However, this latter challenge – the Change Management Challenge – is something that is often underestimated.  Clearly, the more complex the business, the greater the Change Management challenge.

Experts in the field are now saying that the extent of the Change Management Challenge can be up to 10 times greater than the technology challenge – as little as 10 percent of the implementation effort may be devoted to addressing the technology aspects and that as much as 90 percent  may be  devoted to the Change Management aspects.  Given the complexity of our health services, it comes as no surprise that this has been the experience with the PPARS project.

A major challenge which the PPARS project is currently dealing with is the reconciliation of a variety of practices which have grown up in the various health agencies since their inception.  An essential component of the PPARS programme is the development and introduction of standardisation within the Human Resource domain across the entire sector.  The meticulous attention to detail which was paid during the development and implementation of PPARS in the early phases of the project will pay dividends as the system is rolled out throughout the health service.

I am told that the PPARS project is the largest SAP  based Human Resource implementation in Europe and possibly in the World.  It is by far the most complex business change programme in the Irish public sector.

Enterprise-Wide Systems Approach

(Reason 1 – Small size of Irish Health Service)

Ireland with a population of 4 million, has a relatively small healthcare system in international terms.  It is for this reason that we must make the most effective use of the resources which we have available to us to develop our health information systems.

(Reason 2 – Avoiding  “Reinvention of the Wheel”)

The health information systems we need in Ireland will be no less complex that those needed by larger administrations.  In this context, it is important to ensure that we can all learn from each other and that we all avoid “reinvention of the wheel”.  Clearly, this conference will make a very useful contribution to this goal for us all.

(Chosen Approach : Enterprise-Wide Systems Approach)

It is primarily for these reasons that the we in the Department of Health and Children have adopted the approach of enterprise- wide systems to ensure that the systems implemented provide the optimum level of cost effective support for the type of services we require and that resources deployed and effort expended is fully exploited by reusing it throughout the service.

PPARS is the first manifestation of the Department’s and the Health Boards’ Executive’s ‘Enterprise-Wide system’ policy in action and, as roll-out continues through the health service, is continuing to prove the wisdom of this approach.  PPARS exemplifies conjoint working. The success of PPARS is leading the way and providing final proof that the Enterprise-Wide approach to systems implementation is the best way forward for other national programmes, such as the Financial Information Systems Project and the National Hospital Information Systems project.

Progress to Date

I understand that PPARS is now up and running in the

  • Midland Health Board
  • North Western Health Board
  • Western Health Board  and
  • St James’s Hospital

It will be running in the Mid-Western Health Board  (a place dear to my own heart) by November  2004 and plans are in place for its implementation in the remaining health boards by the end of 2005.

I understand that plans are currently being developed for rapid implementation in the wider voluntary sector.


PPARS is delivering a wide range of benefits in these agencies at operational level and at  all levels of  management.  The benefits currently being enjoyed from the systems include

Administrative Processes

A key benefit of the PPARS system is the streamlining and automation of a range of administrative processes in the HR.  As a result, scarce staff resources are freed up and can then be re-directed to frontline service delivery, including patient care.

Manpower Planning and Monitoring

The importance of good planning tools to ensure that the most effective use is made of a workforce which is approaching 100,000 cannot be understated.  Manpower managers at all levels must ensure appropriate staff cover and must react quickly to emerging situations whether they arise at national or local level.  PPARS enables the monitoring of  manpower levels in a timely fashion at local level and at national level and it provides the capability to evaluate the effectiveness of human resource policies.

PPARS is also providing feedback information to underpin the implementation of the health services human resource strategy which I mentioned earlier.

The PPARS project infrastructure also provides a resource which can be harnessed to deal quickly and effectively with the information requirements arising from  new policy changes.  One good example which, I believe, merits specific mention, was the requirement to develop rosters and to monitor working hours in the context of the implementation of the European Working Time Directive for Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors in August of this year.  I would like to thank the PPARS project managers and team for responding so efficiently and effectively to the Department’s specific requirement in relation to this issue.


There must be accountability at all levels for health service expenditure.  The existing systems, many of which rely on manual methods, have been criticised in the past for having significant inadequacies  in this regard.  Thanks to PPARS, we are now entering an era where full accountability for HR expenditure will not only be possible, but readily and simply achievable.

Contribution to the Reforms Process

The further development of PPARS was a key recommendation of both the Brennan and Prospectus reports PPARS.  PPARS has already broken a significant proportion of the ground towards a more unified health services structure.  It will be a key enabler for the reform programme and is will greatly facilitate a smooth transition to the new structures.

Concluding Remarks

Finally, I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me here today.  I would like to wish you all well with the conference which promises to be very informative and worthwhile for you all.  I look forward with great enthusiasm to the full and rapid deployment of PPARS throughout the health services.