By Les Drew, Chairman HSCB
I must say it does feel like longer than five months since I joined the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB).
Little did I think when I accepted the role that we would all be facing one of the most challenging periods in our professional and personal lives.
Everyone has been impacted by Covid-19 and I know it hasn’t been easy.
I believe that as a result of Covid-19 we have all had to think again about things that we have probably taken for granted. Our family life, the world of work and the social circles that we move in have all had to change.
It is important therefore at this particularly challenging time for all of us to think about our own and our family’s mental health and well being and how this may be affected.
The pandemic forced us all to adapt our working practices, but I have been genuinely impressed and encouraged by the enthusiasm, professionalism and commitment of the HSCB staff during these testing times.
For those who don’t know me, I spent 42 years working with NI Electricity Network, most recently as Head of Business Improvement.
Within Health and Social Care, I’ve been a non-executive director with the Belfast Trust (8-years) and former South and East Belfast Trust (2-years), and more recently a non-executive member of the Public Health Agency (5-years).
So I’m very familiar with the health and social care structures in Northern Ireland and I have a real passion for improving services for patients, service users and carers.
I am committed to ensuring that the HSCB continues to deliver on its statutory responsibilities in the face of significant change.
We will continue to work alongside the wider HSC system in designing, developing and implementing flexible, modern and effective health and social care services which we can all be proud of and which we would want for ourselves and our families.
This task has never been more important.
Whilst the HSCB is set to formally close in March 2022, subject to legislation being in place – I have no doubt that the key functions, expertise and knowledge of the Board will play a key role in the future direction of travel of Health and Social Care in NI.
The Health Minister, Mr Robin Swann, recently announced the appointment of five new Non-Executive Directors who are enthusiastic about the future of the Board and are keen to work with the Executive Directors to influence how the HSCB will function in the future.
Dr Theresa Donaldson, Mrs Catherine McCallum, OBE and Mr Norman McKinley commenced their appointments on 1 August 2020 while Dr Nazia Latif and Dr Thomas Moore will commence their appointments on 1 September 2020.
John Mone, Melissa McCullough and Stephen Leach stepped down after the most recent Board meeting having been in post since the formation of the Health and Social Care Board in 2009.
They are committed individuals who each have provided an invaluable perspective to the commissioning of health and social care services for the population of Northern Ireland. I would like to sincerely thank each of them for all of their service and their dedication to duty.
Change is not just confined to Non-Executive Members. Mr Paul Cavanagh has been appointed Interim Director of Planning and Commissioning and further changes to the Executive team are imminent with Chief Executive, Valerie Watts and Director of Integrated Care, Dr Sloan Harper, stepping down at the end of September. Director of Finance, Paul Cummings, is scheduled to leave his post in early Autumn.
During the height of the Covid-19 crisis I witnessed how well staff within the HSCB and across the HSC responded to the many significant challenges they were facing.
That professionalism, commitment and dedication to making a difference for the population we serve will stand us in very good stead as we now start to rebuild and transform services, as well as ensuring the HSC is prepared for any second spike of the pandemic should it arrive.