Cultural revolution: Unit to bring HSE change

The HSE has set up a dedicated culture unit as part of its transition from a “silo”-based “command and control” organisation to a “values-based one” — according to a note from former HSE chief Tony O’Brien the day before he resigned.

Tony O'Brien who resigned as Director General of the HSE last month

Mr O’Brien’s vision for the HSE, outlined in a memo of May 9, is against a backdrop of a complete collapse of public trust in the health service due to the CervicalCheck scandal, where at least 209 women diagnosed with cervical cancer had not been told an audit of their smear history showed cancer warning signs had not been detected,

Mr O’Brien, who was director general of the HSE for six years, sent the memo to his leadership team 24 hours before he stepped down.

He talks about the “need to continue to develop a culture within the health service that builds on trust and confidence”. The next step, he says, is to establish a “dedicated culture function for the organisation”.

The Culture Unit will be a specialist function, within the Office of the Director General, with expertise in organisation architecture and culture development,” he wrote.

Kirsten Connolly, who spearheads the HSE’s Values in Action programme, will head up the unit, as HSE director, organisational culture, a role she took up on May 1.

Values In Action is “a peer-driven social movement to inspire culture change in the HSE to create a positive environment for staff and patients”.

It began in 2016 and a survey of its efficacy 12 months later found, inter alia, that eight in 10 staff now use their name and their patients’ names, up from five in 10, the previous year.

Values in Action is driven by “champions”, who promote nine behaviours to affect cultural change. Champions are trained in the principles of Viral ChangeTM, developed by “organisational architect” Dr Leandro Herrero, who was paid €70,000 by the HSE in 2016 for 15 days’ work.

Asked how many staff would be in the new cultural unit, the HSE said it is “currently being established and the resourcing requirements needed to deliver on the programme of work are currently being considered.

“It is intended that staff will be assigned from within the existing health service staff headcount and services who are engaging in the culture change programmes will also have their local staff involved.”.

A progress report on the scoping exercise which will determine the nature of an inquiry into CervicalCheck is due to be brought to Health Minister Simon Harris this week.

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