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New health unit adviser gets €480,000 pay contract

The UK management consultant charged with cutting the numbers of patients on hospital trolleys and reducing delays for surgery is on a contract worth €480,000.

Martin Connor, adviser to the Special Delivery Unit which has been set up within the Department of Health, will be paid €160,000 annually for the next three years.

That's just €8,000 short of the €168,000 a year earned by the Government's best-paid advisers -- to the Taoiseach, Mark Kennedy and Andrew McDowell.

Dr Connor, who is a doctor of philosophy, has an active, hands-on role in the day-to-day running of the unit, a national nerve centre, aimed at improving how hospitals operate and function.

The unit, based at the Department of Health in Hawkins House, also has a chief operating officer Tony O'Brien and a small staff, some of whom have been seconded from other areas of the health service or hired in the past six months.

Dr Connor worked from 2005 to 2008 as special policy adviser to the Department of Health in the North where waiting lists fell, only to rise again in recent years.

He joined the NHS in the UK in 1999 when he was selected for a graduate management training programme.

Last week, it emerged that the Special Delivery Unit had a budget of €85m and had brought in a small team of outside expertise.

It is also tendering for an outside consultancy to help guide the team on how to improve the performance of hospitals in reducing waiting times for non-emergency procedures.

It was announced last week that several measures put in place by the Special Delivery Unit, working with hospitals, had helped reduce the numbers of trolleys during the traditionally pressurised weeks after Christmas and in the New Year.

However, a contributory factor has been the mild winter and low levels of flu.

A key test will be provided in the coming weeks and months when cash-strapped hospitals have to close beds to save money.

There were 280 patients on trolleys across the country yesterday morning, including 37 in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.

The unit plans to draw up reliable figures on the number of people on hospital outpatient lists and it is hoped that these will be available later this year.

Irish Independent