When I took up the National Clinical Director role, one of the other Tsars, Harry Cayton, National Director for Patient and the Public, took me to one side and said "whatever you do, don't let the civil servants control you". I had received similar advice from a different quarter but not put so eloquently - that person pointed out that civil servants were there to serve. But we are all of course here to serve - the question is who?
Working with Gerry has been a real pleasure. Not only his dress sense but mainly his common sense. He has acted as a minder and friend and saved me from making the naieve mistakes that can easily be made in a new and challenging environment. If Gerry has controlled me it has been in the gentlest way - he is a skillful behind the scenes negotiator. He is pleased, and I am beginning to learn, that if nothing appears to happen but the experience of people with kidney disease improves that's infinitely better than the razzamatazz of a new initiative every week, the illusion of progress and the situation on the front line not changing.
Gerry is returning to Belfast to take up a leading role in the Alliance Party - a historical time in Irish politics. One may wonder what time in Irish politics isn't historic, but seriously, what an opportunity for Gerry to make a difference. He will be behind the scenes so we won't see Gerry's smiling face between (was that a real smile) those of Martin McGuinness and Ian Paisley.
Gerry's skills and enthusiasm will be missed, by myself certainly, by the Renal and Vascular Team at the DH and, although everyone will not know it, by the wider renal community. I will be watching his progress and that of his Alliance Party, in much the same way that I now look out for the Sunderland scores. Although there are many differences Gerry does share the focus on sucess with the Sunderland manager. We wish him well - that's Gerry, not necessarily Roy!.