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Appointment cock-up for top decision-maker in health service leads to re-advertisement

A new recruitment process is underway to find a replacement for Dean Sullivan, the former director of commissioning at the Health and Social Care Board
Seanín Graham

A BLUNDER by the body which runs the north's health service had forced it to re-advertise a key NHS job - just weeks after the successful candidate was announced.

The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) last night admitted the mistake and confirmed that a fresh recruitment drive will begin over coming weeks for a new 'director of commissioning'.

Last month Board staff learned through an internal memo that Dr Miriam McCarthy, a consultant with the Public Health Agency, had secured the £110,000-a-year post.

She was replacing the high-profile Dean Sullivan, who left the troubled organisation in May for a job in the Republic's health sector.

The Board, which has an annual wages bill of more than £28m for 500 administration staff, was due to be axed in March after it was criticised in a 2015 independent report over its poor performance by Sir Liam Donaldson, the former chief medical officer for England.

In May, the Irish News revealed it will be at least another two years before the body is wound up.

The organisation's director of commissioning is viewed as one of the important roles in the health service, with the job-holder overseeing the multi-billion pound health budget and acting as the main decision maker in what services can be signed off - and crucially what will be cut.

It is understood there were no concerns around Dr McCarthy's suitability for the post.

Instead, Board officials last night attributed the mishap to a "procedural error".

The absence of such a senior decision maker at the organisation comes at a time when the north is facing its worst waiting lists crisis in 20 years, with patients waiting up to five years for routine surgery such as hip and knee replacements.

Earlier this week, it emerged that pensioners were travelling to Lithuania for orthopaedic operations due to lengthy surgical delays.

A Board spokeswoman confirmed that the senior post was originally advertised in June with interviews held in late July.

"While an appointment was offered to the successful candidate, the HSCB will now be re-running the recruitment process for the director of commissioning post," she said.

"We would stress that the decision to re-run the recruitment is absolutely no reflection on any of the candidates who applied for the post and, in particular, no reflection on the candidate who was offered the post.

"Nonetheless, the nature of a procedural error with the original recruitment process, in relation to compliance with the revised Health and Social Care senior executive recruitment and selection code, necessitated that the process be re-run.

"It is anticipated that the job will be re-advertised in the coming weeks."

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