Sir David Nicholson on Cyprus’ new health system: Six months to deliver on initial priorities

Creating the circumstances that will secure the best quality of medical services for all the people of Cyprus is the vision for the country’s new public healthcare system that its newly appointed Chairman brings to the job.

Sir David Nicholson, CEO of the NHS in England from 2006 to 2014, will officially be taking over his duties in the new year as Chairman of the Board of the State Health Services Organisation (OKYY), tasked with the implementation of administrative and financial autonomy in public hospitals, seen as the first step towards the new General Healthcare Scheme (GeSY).

Speaking to CNA, Sir David said he is a doer and gives himself and his team a six-month period to implement the initial set of priorities.

Since leaving the NHS in the middle of 2014 I have worked in approximately 20 countries through a variety of organisations, including the World Health Organisation and the World Bank, providing support and advice to governments introducing universal health care. Whilst it is a great privilege to provide advice, I am a manager by background and found it frustrating not being involved in the implementation of my advice, he said, explaining why he was up for a such a challenge in a foreign country.

He had had similar proposals by other countries which he rejected. In the case of Cyprus he was convinced by the compelling case presented for the new healthcare system by the Health Minister Giorgos Pamporidis, whom he met on a visit to Cyprus organised by KPMG last October.

I accepted Cyprus for three reasons, Sir David elaborated. Firstly, to make health reform work you need a lot of political support and I don’t know of another country in the world where the reform legislation was passed unanimously. Secondly, Cyprus has very wisely adopted a single payer solution which is the fairest, most effective and efficient funding system for healthcare funding; and thirdly, my family and I have for many years come on holiday to Cyprus. We love the food, the culture, the people, and of course the climate.

He went on to say that I bring 40 years of experience running healthcare institutions and systems, from CEO of a thousand-bed hospital to running the healthcare system of two of our great cities, Birmingham and London; and of course as CEO of the largest integrated healthcare system in the world, NHS, employing 1.2 million people turning over 100 billion pounds.”

I am an implementer with a strong track record of getting things done. Healthcare reform is notoriously difficult to deliver so I bring an absolute focus on delivering improvements for patients and working closely with clinicians to deliver shared agendas.

No matter how big each challenge is, one needs to start with the first steps. Even though Sir David is still in the process of forming a full picture of what he will be faced with in Cyprus, he already knows what there steps are: I haven’t had the opportunity to talk it over with the Minister or the rest of the Board, but I would imagine our initial priority will be appointing a Chief Executive and an executive team capable of leading the changes required; setting out a credible clinically led service vision; and establish a flow of funds to safeguard the future of the services. All within the first six months. We would also need to articulate what the benefits for patients will be by the introduction of the reform.

With just a few days since his appointment Sir David has not yet acquired a full understanding of the totality of the financial regime, but he says there are only four options. The government will need to put more money into the system; we need to be more efficient and generate a surplus; we need to ensure that we collect all the income due to us; and where patients have a choice between public and private we need to deliver a service that exceeds their expectations, he noted.

Asked whether he believes that the NHS should be a model for the Cypriot General Healthcare Scheme, he dismissed the idea, saying it is impossible to take a healthcare system from a particular country and introduce it to another. The Cypriot NHS needs to grow out of the experience of the Cypriot people and to be built on their talent. I can help and bring the experience and learning of success and failure from the NHS in the UK, but you can’t import it, he noted.

His first visit to Cyprus since being appointed will be on 10 January. Noting that he is determined to produce results, hesaid that “you need to build a shared vision between the board, the clinical staff, the patients and the public and that’s what I will do. But I will push people hard. The Cypriot people deserve the best high quality care for all, he concluded.

Source: Cyprus News Agency