Strategic Portfolio Management in the Irish Public Health Service

Clarity – Visibility – Control – Simplicity


By Seamus Woods

Head of Portfolio Management
Health Service Executive

Dublin, Ireland


The Health Service Executive (HSE) provides or funds all of Ireland’s public health service in hospitals and communities across the Republic of Ireland. It is a large organisation with over 100,000 employees and budget of €12,131m. Today the Health Service is made up of delivery system bodies and agencies each charged with the delivery of some aspects of health services. The development of the system has in many cases been based on the need to address specific health care problems at a particular point in time. Studies have shown that the system is highly fragmented with overlap and uncertainty in terms of who is responsible for services delivered.

It is widely accepted that changes were needed to achieve national health care goals efficiently, effectively and in an affordable manner. In that context the Government launched Future Health (Department of Health, 2012) that sets out a policy framework to radically reform Ireland’s health service and to ensure that the resources invested are used effectively to achieve good health outcomes. The HSE, to give effect to the ‘Future Health’ policy wanted to develop a Reform Portfolio around what it considers to be the major system priorities:

  • Reform of the acute hospital delivery system
  • Reform of the Community and Primary Care delivery system
  • Clinically-led, multi-disciplinary, cross-organisation, design authority for integrated models of care
  • Reform of ICT to strategic enabler of reform and operations
  • Reform of Finance Systems and Organisation
  • A new vision and strategy for Human Resources

To manage the Reform Portfolio the HSE set up a System Reform Group (SRG) to oversee the wide range of strategic reform programmes across the various care Divisions in the Health Services in which various methodologies, styles and approaches exists to both programme and project management. The SRG faced a number of critical challenges:

  • Achieving consistency in a decentralised organisation
  • Not ‘over egging’ the programme/project management methodologies
  • Getting sponsorship at the highest levels, nationally and locally
  • Getting the right engagement and culture change at all levels – clinical and non clinical
  • Managing the many ‘moving parts’

This paper describes the Portfolio approach to managing such a large Portfolio (42 programmes of work and over 500 projects).


To read entire paper (click here)



About the Author

pmwj40-Nov2015-Woods-PHOTOSeamus Woods, IPMA – A, PMP

Health Service Executive
Institute of Project Management

Dublin, Ireland




Seamus Woods is an Assistant National Director (Senior Portfolio Manager) in the Irish Health Service Executive and is also a faculty member of the Irish Institute of Project Management. He has over 29 years of experience at Senior Management level within the Health Services and more than 25 years’ experience of project management and change management as a practitioner, instructor and leader.

Working initially in the former Mid-Western Health Board he held senior roles at Board, Strategic and operational levels across a range of services. With the advent of the new health Service Executive in 2004 Seamus set up and led a national projects office for the community services sector .In 2010 he was seconded to Children services to programme manage the setting up of a new national Children’s Agency (TUSLA) and its associated Reform programme. He returned to the Health Service Executive in 2013 as Head of Portfolio Management for the Health Reform Programme.

Seamus can be contacted at [email protected]