People of the Transition Unit – Simon Medcalf
Tell us a little about yourself and your background
I’m only a recent arrival in New Zealand – I moved here from the UK with my whānau in early 2020, arriving four weeks before lockdown! My substantive job is as Group Manager Strategy in the Ministry of Health, where I worked mainly on COVID-19 strategy and Alert Levels, and I’ve been on secondment to the Transition Unit since September 2020. My background is in the NHS and Civil Service in England – over about 13 years I’ve led national reforms and programmes for health and social care in the Department of Health, and spent time as Head of Mental Health in NHS England.
What's your role as part of the health reform?
I’m co-leading the policy work in the TU. This includes all of the policy choices on the design of the future system, helping Ministers to make decisions on the big questions. It covers policy briefings, working on the legislation, advice on funding and budget, and supporting Ministers and Cabinet to understand and oversee progress with the reforms. Since the TU was set up, we think we have written more pages than War and Peace! I think that speaks to the complexity and impact of these reforms, and the importance of considering all possible factors and approaches in designing changes of this size.
What are you working on at the moment?
The big focus over the past month has been on the Pae Ora (Healthy Futures) Bill, which has just been introduced to Parliament. This is the key legislation that will create the reformed system. It has been a fascinating experience to see the Bill develop and give life to the new entities and the principles and accountabilities that will underpin the system. We are now preparing for the Select Committee process to debate the Bill, which will give New Zealanders the opportunity to provide their feedback and input to the Committee.
What happens next?
The Bill process will move forward over the coming months through Select Committee debates – supporting that will be a big focus. But the policy work doesn’t stop there. We will also be working on supporting Ministers through the process for Budget ‘22, taking forward more detailed policy work for Day 1 of the new system, developing the system-wide approach to monitoring and reporting, drafting the interim Government Policy Statement, and much more.
What is your advice to the health sector?
Firstly, I encourage everyone with an interest to have a look at the Bill and think about how you might contribute to the Select Committee process. The legislation isn’t just about technical legal descriptions of entities – it also says something important about the type of system we want, and the common principles that should inform how people work at all levels. It’s important to get it right.
More broadly, I have been struck in my short time in this country by the incredible commitment of everyone working in our health system. In unprecedented circumstances, the focus on working collectively and collaboratively for the benefit of the whole population has shown what we can achieve through these reforms. We want to keep learning from the expertise and experience of the health sector, so please keep engaged and tell us what needs to change and how.