Professor Aidan Halligan

Professor Aidan Halligan was the founding director of Well North, a programme inspired by his lifelong commitment to making safer and better health care equally available to everyone.

Born in Dublin in 1957, Aidan qualified in medicine from Trinity College Dublin in 1984. He was appointed lecturer in obstetrics and gynaecology at Leicester University in 1993, and in 1997 became the youngest professor in his speciality of fetal and maternal medicine.

He served as director of clinical governance for the NHS from 1999 to 2006, and then as deputy chief medical officer for England from 2003. Aidan helped to establish consistent standards of care across the NHS, pioneering safer and more effective ways for doctors, nurses and other health professionals to work together and learn from mistakes.

Aidan was director of education at University College London Hospital (UCLH), where the death of a homeless man outside ten hospital inspired him and colleague Nigel Hewett to set a specialist homeless team in 2009. He was determined to address what he perceived as a system failure in the way homeless people were treated by the NHS, and did so by creating the Pathway charity in 2010 to develop services specifically for the homeless.

Aidan became head of safety for Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals in 2008, a role he held for five years. During this time, he appointed the first independent patient safety ombudsman, with a whistleblowing remit. He also visited Camp Bastion field hospital in Afghanistan, which inspired him to apply lessons from the hugely challenging practice of emergency medicine in a military environment to the NHS. He established the NHS Staff College for leadership development in 2010, to enable clinicians and managers to adapt the military’s multidisciplinary and patient-focused approach to improve NHS care.

From 2014 until his death in April 2015, Aidan was the director of Well North. His approach was to help people express their concerns and then work across their own community to tackle problems of health inequality, worklessness and poverty. Aidan’s energy and inspiration turned this vision into a practical programme, based on a clear philosophy. He secured the backing of Public Health England, together with funding to be matched by the programme’s pathfinders. The ambitious and innovative programme now underway is a testament to Aidan’s insight, drive and humanity.

"Compassion to strangers is at the heart of the NHS"

Sharing the vision

The University of Newcastle Insights Lecture Series

Click here to listen to a talk by Aidan Halligan on 10 February 2015