European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies

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About the project

The King's Fund is working with the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies (the Observatory) as national lead institute (NLI) for the UK.

The Observatory is a programme of the World Health Organization (WHO) and consists of a partnership between the WHO regional office for Europe, the governments of Belgium, Finland, Norway, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the Veneto region, the European Commission, the World Bank, European Investment Bank and Open Society Institute, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Health system profiles

The Observatory co-ordinates and collaborates with NLIs across Europe to write and disseminate health system profiles in a comprehensive, standardised format. There are currently 53 member states of WHO European region and a selected number of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries who are working to support the Observatory. The health system profiles are accessed by a wide international audience who are interested in comparing European health systems and policies.

The King's Fund is hosting the English health system profile, written by Sean Boyle (Senior Researcher from LSE), and is responsible for regularly updating this profile to reflect significant changes to the system.

Our partners

The King's Fund has also developed partnerships with David Steel OBE, Ciaran O'Neill (University of Galway), Patrick MacGregor (University of Ulster) and Marcus Longley (University of Glamorgan) to write profiles for Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales respectively.

The programme provides an opportunity for The King's Fund to collaborate with new partners in innovative ways, sharing our knowledge and expertise on the English system, and also supporting the development of understanding on important similarities and differences between the UK and other European countries.


The Health Systems in Transition (HiT) profiles are country-based reports that provide a detailed description of a health system and of reform and policy initiatives in progress or under development in a specific country. Each profile is produced by country experts in collaboration with the Observatory’s staff. In order to facilitate comparisons between countries, the profiles are based on a template, which is revised periodically. The template provides detailed guidelines and specific questions, definitions and examples needed to compile a profile.

HiT profiles seek to provide relevant information to support policy-makers and analysts in the development of health systems in Europe. They are building blocks that can be used to:

  • learn in detail about different approaches to the organisation, financing and delivery of health services and the role of the main actors in health systems
  • describe the institutional framework, the process, content and implementation of health care reform programmes

Project team

Project leads

This is a joint project with the European Observatory on Health Systems and Policies. The King's Fund has collaborated with partners in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to develop profiles for the UK.

Catherine Foot

Catherine joined the The King's Fund in March 2009, and is now Assistant Director in Policy. She is currently managing a programme of work on quality and outcomes, looking at issues such as the measurement and reporting of quality and outcomes information.

Sean Boyle

The King's Fund is currently hosting the Health Systems in Transition profile for England, written by Sean Boyle, Senior Researcher from LSE.

Sean has researched and written extensively on a range of policy issues concerning the finance and provision of health care in the United Kingdom, including the economic evaluation of the use and allocation of resources, public–private partnerships, modelling elective and emergency health care, and performance measurement.

Ciaran O'Neill – joint lead partner for Northern Ireland

Ciaran O'Neill currently holds the position of Professor of Health Technology Assessment in NUI Galway's Cairns School of Business and Economics. He was a Harkness Fellow in Healthcare Policy and Practice in 2001/2002, has been Chair of the Northern Ireland Health Economics Group and of the Health Economics Association of Ireland and served on several scientific committees as a health economist. His research interests include technology assessment, cancer care and healthcare utilisation.

Pat McGregor – joint lead partner for Northern Ireland

Pat McGregor is a senior lecturer in the School of Economics at the University of Ulster. His research is in applied economics and he has published in the areas of health economics, poverty, income inequality, finance and development economics. Currently, one strand of his research is analysing fertility using data from the Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study where he chairs the Research Forum.

David Steel – lead partner for Scotland

David Steel was Chief Executive of NHS Quality Improvement Scotland (NHS QIS) from 2003 until 2009.

After 12 years as a lecturer in public administration at the University of Exeter, he moved into NHS management in 1984 as Assistant Director of the National Association of Health Authorities.He joined the NHS Management Executive in the Scottish Office at its inception in 1990 as Director of Corporate Affairs, moving to the post of Head of Health Gain in 1995. He was Chief Executive of the Clinical Standards Board for Scotland from its establishment in April 1999 until its merger with NHS QIS in 2003.

In retirement he is Senior Research Fellow at the University of Aberdeen and chairs the Priority Areas Panel of the National Institute for Health Research Service Delivery and Organisation programme.

Marcus Longley – lead partner for Wales

Marcus Longley is Director of the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care (WIHSC) at the University of Glamorgan, and Professor of Applied Health Policy. He was educated in the universities of Oxford, Cardiff and Bristol, and worked as a manager in the NHS for 14 years.

He has served as an advisor to the House of Commons Welsh Affairs Committee, the Welsh Government and National Assembly, the Welsh Local Government Association, the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain.

For many years he has been interested in health futures, the relationship between citizens, patients and their health care (he has now run six Citizens Juries on health issues), the development of the health professions, and the impact of devolution on health and social care policy. Marcus is a member of the Bevan Commission, which advises the Welsh Minister for Health and Social Services.