A notice about cookies

This website uses cookies. Some cookies may have been set already. To find out more about our use of cookies you can visit our Privacy policy. By browsing this website, you agree to our use of cookies.


This is a prototype - your feedback will help us to improve it.

Press Release

Minister Harris hosts Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport at ‘Future Health – Opportunities for Collaboration’ symposium to mark the first year of the Irish-Scottish Health Forum

Published: 20 September 2019
From: Department of Health

Minister for Health Simon Harris, TD today (Friday) welcomed Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman, and her officials to the Department of Health for a symposium on ‘Future Health – Opportunities for Collaboration’.

The symposium marked the first year of learning exchange between Irish and Scottish health officials, with a focus on priority areas to improve health in both countries. These areas are Public Health and Health Improvement; Patient Safety; Data and Digital; Patient Access and Flow; and Service and System Integration. During the year, officials visited health and social care sites in Ireland and Scotland to learn about innovative ways to improve patient care.

The symposium showcased the benefits of this close co-operation, with presentations from Irish and Scottish health officials and a keynote address on health reform by Prof. Rafael Bengoa author of Systems, Not Structures - Changing Health and Social Care, Northern Ireland’s recent reform plan.

In his welcoming address, Minister Harris emphasised the importance of collaboration in addressing common health challenges:

“To achieve the goals of our Sláintecare reform programme we must learn from other countries, and there is much for us to learn from Scotland. I welcome the work of this forum towards our shared ambition of getting the best care for our people. While we are not certain of the outcome of Brexit, we can be very certain that maintaining strong relationships with our closest neighbours and friends in the United Kingdom - including Scotland – is more important now than ever.”

Minister Harris and Cabinet Secretary Freeman also visited a recently opened Primary Care Centre in Coolock. Primary Care Centres have a key role to play in delivering the vision laid out in Sláintecare. They facilitate the shift from acute care to primary care because of the range of multi-disciplinary services they provide and the role they play in keeping people out of hospital who don't need to be in an acute setting. Good progress continues to be made in the development and roll-out of Primary Care Centres - 127 are now fully operational across the country. Given both countries’ commitment to achieving integrated care, the visit gave officials the opportunity to compare approaches on how to facilitate reforms towards more community-based care.

The CEO of the HSE, Paul Reid said:

‘‘I’m delighted to have the opportunity today to engage with colleagues from Ireland and Scotland and to hear first-hand about the important work that is taking place. As two countries we face very similar challenges and opportunities. It is important that we continue to work together to share our learning.’’

Muiris O’Connor, who is Irish lead for the Irish-Scottish Health Forum on behalf of the Department of Health, said that this symposium was a very welcome learning opportunity for both countries.

He also highlighted the announcement of a new learning fellowship between Ireland and Scotland as an excellent way of facilitating the two countries’ shared learning:

“Ireland and Scotland face similar challenges in delivering effective, patient-centred healthcare. Learning from each other on how we rise to these challenges is key. This learning fellowship, which will enable officials to travel to the other country for 3 months and contribute to one of their priority projects, highlights our mutual commitment to continued collaboration.”


Notes to the Editor:

Background to the Irish-Scottish Health Forum

This symposium marks a successful first year of learning exchange between Irish and Scottish health officials through the Irish Scottish Health Forum. The purpose of the Irish-Scottish Health Forum is to create a forum to support shared learning at a senior official level across both jurisdictions. During the visit of Nicola Sturgeon to Dublin in October 2017, the First Minister and An Taoiseach signalled health as an area of interest for sectoral collaboration between Ireland and Scotland. Further to this, engagement between health officials led to the establishment of a year-long health forum, the inaugural meeting of which took place in Scotland on 27th September 2018 when Minister Harris was invited to Scotland by Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, Jeane Freeman, to visit the Golden Jubilee National Hospital.

New Learning Fellowship

The Minister and the Cabinet Secretary announced a new Scottish-Irish staff exchange programme for 2020. The programme will offer up to two Learning Fellowships per country. These will provide an opportunity for two Irish and two Scottish senior policymakers or health service workers to spend 3 months working with counterparts in the other country.

Keynote Speaker: Prof Rafael Bengoa, SI-Health Bilbao

Prof. Rafael Bengoa, co-director of the Institute for Health and Strategy, Bilbao, is the keynote speaker at this symposium. A Senior Fellow of Harvard University School of Public Health, he teaches strategic leadership at Harvard and at McGill, Canada. He has also practiced for seven years in both hospital and primary care. Professor Bengoa chaired the expert group that published the report ‘Systems not Structures’, in 2016, which provides the blueprint for the transformation of Northern Ireland's healthcare system. Prof. Bengoa holds MScs in Community Medicine and Health Systems Management from the University of London. He worked for 15 years for the World Health Organization in Copenhagen and Geneva, where he was Director of Management of Chronic Conditions and later Director for Health System Policies. From 2009 to 2013 he was Minister for Health and Consumer Affairs in the Basque Regional Government and is Vice Chairman of the EU Advisory Group of Horizon 2020, which deals with health, demography and wellbeing.

Part of