Published: 30/09/2004, Volume II4, No. 5925 Page 9

Deputy chief medical officer Professor Aidan Halligan was last week appointed as the new chief executive officer for the Irish Health Service Executive.

Mr Halligan, who was born in Ireland, said he was delighted to return to his roots to head up a new agency that will take over the day-to-day running of Ireland's£6.8bn national health budget.

He has served 18 months in his current role.

The first challenge of his new£164,000 a year post will be to abolish the 12 health boards and set up four regional offices and consolidate and merge 32 health service agencies without disrupting patient care.

As the first medical practitioner to run Ireland's health service, he will also need to prioritise improving patient care, create better working environments for staff and improve value for money.

NHS chief executive Sir Nigel Crisp said Professor Halligan had made a 'tremendous contribution' to the NHS.

'He is widely respected throughout the NHS and I am sure his expertise and wisdom will be missed by many of us. Ireland's gain is our loss.'

Chief medical officer Professor Sir Liam Donaldson said: 'Aidan has made a very positive contribution to our work, in particular in developing clinical governance and improving the quality of care.

'His leadership in the transformation to modernise medical training and more recently helping to lead the national programme for IT will also leave a positive legacy. We are sorry to be losing Aidan so soon but I wish him well in his new post.'

Professor Halligan will take up his new post in April 2005.