With the end of 2015 in sight, we asked Whitehall's top officials to review the year, set out their priorities for 2016 – and shed some light on their festive plans. Una O’Brien, permanent secretary at the Department of Health, takes part in our biggest-ever perm secs round-up series...
How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2015?
Making change happen in health and care requires all the key players nationally to be aligned around common goals. In 2015, the Department of Health invested in stronger partnerships with our arm’s-length bodies, particularly NHS England and Public Health England. We have built a stronger community of non-executive directors of ALBs; established a joint leadership programme for rising talent; and agreed on joint governance of the changes that will flow from the Spending Review.
What are your department’s top priorities in the year ahead?
Getting NHS finances in better shape and doing so while protecting quality has to be number one. A close second will be making progress on shifting care outside hospital. Prevention needs more attention – and we all need to think about the one thing we could do to strengthen our health and wellbeing in 2016.
What film do you hope to watch over the festive period – and what’s the best game to play with the family on Christmas Day?
I will be hoping to watch my favourite film over the festive period, Some Like It Hot. And the best family game to play on Christmas Day is undoubtedly Twister – good for stretching, and I am used to reaching in all directions at the same time!
Perm secs round-up 2015: Whitehall's top civil servants review the year – and look ahead to 2016