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

The appointment of Professor Halligan to run the Irish health service comes just six months after he was appointed to lead work on clinical engagement with the IT programme.

Colleagues who worked with him paid tribute to his energy and leadership in tackling a challenging agenda.But some questioned whether his departure in April will leave the agenda unchampioned at a critical point, just months before the deadline for full roll-out of e-booking in December 2005.

British Medical Association IT committee chair Dr John Powell said Professor Halligan wasted no time in putting clinical engagement at the top of the agenda.'He swept away the culture of secrecy at the old National Clinical Advisory Board by making its closure his first task, 'he said.

'Professor Halligan was a welcome arrival because he had a track record of implementing change in a difficult clinical environment and is a respected senior clinician.'

He said there was a danger that the loss of Professor Halligan 'might lead to inertia' in rolling out clinical engagement.Dr Powell added: 'There is a need for continuity.Organisational structures and personalities can't keep on changing.'

National director for patients and public Harry Cayton agreed that Professor Halligan had 'done a tremendous job in quite a short time managing the process into its second phase'.

But he said the success of the programme did not depend on one single individual.'The most important thing now is to continue what Aidan started - engaging directly with clinicians and patients.'