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A Tribute to Aidan Halligan

30th April 2015

It was with great sadness that I learnt of the sudden death of Professor Aidan Halligan at the age of 57 years.  Professor Aidan Halligan was Director of Well North and Principal of the NHS Staff College for leadership development. He will be sorely missed and I offer my condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.

Professor Aidan Halligan

Professor Aidan Halligan

It is hard to accept the loss of such a caring, vibrant, courageous man who made such a positive difference to patient care. Aidan had the courage to speak out about challenging issues. He was passionate about addressing health inequalities and he transformed services for homeless people.  The wellbeing of patients and staff was at the heart of his practice. The NHS has lost one of the most compassionate leaders I have ever met. Aidan was an open and approachable person and role-modelled warm, engaging and inclusive practice. He was genuinely interested in how things were going for staff personally as well as professionally.

I was privileged to have known Aidan and to have shared several thought-provoking conversations with him. He enjoyed a good debate and challenged me to reflect on my values and motivation. He changed my response to homeless people and inspired me with his compassionate leadership. Aidan wrote a lot about NHS leadership and Roger Kline describes this eloquently in his recent tribute to Aidan.

Our initial meeting was at a conference where he shared his own personal journey in meeting the needs of homeless people and disadvantaged communities. I was inspired by his genuineness and courage. We spoke about the role of the health visitor in addressing health inequalities and building community capacity and we agreed to share our ideas further. At our next meeting at UCHL we had to find a free room because Aidan did not have an office. He believed offices can create boundaries between managers and staff. As we searched for a free room he smiled and greeted everyone personally and they reciprocated.  It was clear that Aidan genuinely cared for people and that he was well liked and respected. We talked about learning from mistakes and the after action review approach he developed with colleagues.  He was committed to creating a blame-free culture and facilitating long-term learning.

More recently Aidan was an expert advisor to the iHV project which developed a support framework to foster resilience in health visiting. He also recently wrote about creating a compassionate culture for the Voices blog on the iHV website. In his Voices blog he said that “the greatest gift we can provide others who are suffering is not advice but encouragement”. I am very grateful for the support and encouragement he gave me. I will miss his Irish wit and the kindness and wisdom he shared.

Thank you Aidan. It was a serendipitous moment when we met and you will continue to inspire me to be an advocate for clients and to keep compassion at the heart of my practice.

Go n-éirí an bóthar leat”

Ann Pettit