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Sir Nigel Crisp, chief executive of the National Health Service (NHS) and permanent secretary of the UK Department of Health, said Monday that he plans to step down from those posts at the end of the month.

He will take early retirement after more than five years in what is seen as one of the most challenging jobs in British government, during which he oversaw the implementation of the first half of the 10-year NHS Plan.

In a message to NHS and departmental staff, Crisp said he had been privileged to serve in his NHS and Department of Health posts, adding: “I am proud that the NHS has achieved or exceeded the challenging targets it has set. Over this period, people have made enormous changes in the NHS. Where it matters, at the front line, the old hierarchies are breaking down and outdated practices are changing.“

Acknowledging the financial difficulties the NHS is dealing with, he said, “I wish to acknowledge my accountability for problems just as I may take some credit for achievements.“

Crisp, 54, joined the NHS in 1986, and held a variety of senior managerial positions, including chief executive of the Oxford Radcliffe Hospital and regional director for London. He was appointed to his current post in November 2000, and became the first civil servant to combine the previously separate roles of head of a government department and head of the NHS.

The NHS Plan was published in July 2000 and Crisp was approached in November 2000 to manage its implementation as NHS chief executive. He also was appointed as permanent secretary of the Department of Health to ensure linkage between policy and implementation, the first person to hold that dual role.

Following his retirement, Sir Ian Carruthers will become acting chief executive of the NHS and Hugh Taylor will become acting permanent secretary of the Department of Health.

Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt said, “Sir Nigel has served the NHS and the Department of Health with great distinction. I have enjoyed working with him since I became Secretary of State, and I am grateful to him for driving the huge improvements we have seen in patient care over the last five years.“

She said Crisp “has successfully led the health service through the first half of the government's ambitious program of investment and reform. This has secured the shortest waiting times in a generation, with more beds, more hospitals, more doctors and more nurses than ever before.“

Hewitt said that as a result of the efforts led by Crisp, the Department of Health “has become a role model for the successful delivery of public services.“

Ireland labs adopting ThinPrep test

Cytyc (Marlborough, Massachusetts) said that all laboratories performing cervical cancer screening in Ireland are adopting the company's ThinPrep Pap Test.

Most of the laboratories in Ireland had completed the conversion process last year, including the installation of a ThinPrep Imaging System at the University of Dublin, Trinity College .

Cytyc's Irish distributor, Screenlink , recently won the tender for the remaining two laboratories in Cork and Galway, making Cytyc the exclusive supplier of liquid-based cytology in Ireland, where some 250,000 Pap tests are performed annually.

About 150,000 tests have been converted to the ThinPrep Pap Test thus far, and the remainder is expected to be converted in the next few months.

“The recently completed agreements with laboratories in Galway and Cork make the choice of ThinPrep Pap Test unanimous in Ireland,“ said David Harding, president of Cytyc International . “This is a tribute to our technology, as well as the dedicated efforts of our team at Cytyc UK and Screenlink.“

Cytyc develops clinically effective products for cervical cancer screening, breast cancer risk assessment, treatment of excessive menstrual bleeding, and treatment of breast cancer.

Axis Three, Siemens in imaging partnership

Axis Three Ltd. (Belfast, Northern Ireland), which refers to itself as a pioneer in 3-D solutions for cosmetic and plastic surgery, last week reported the closing of a $1.7 million funding round and an exclusive partnership with Siemens Medical Solutions (Malvern, Pennsylvania).

The partnership will support the further development of an advanced 3-D capturing and imaging solution, which the companies said would enable patients to see the “before“ and “after“ effects of different cosmetic surgery procedures in realistic photo 3-D.

Siemens exclusively licensed 3-D image acquisition technology for cosmetic surgery and other applications to Axis Three and will provide support and assistance in developing the advanced scanning system.

The funding round was led by Clarendon Fund Managers and supported by Invest Northern Ireland. Investors included NITech and Viridian Growth Fund, Halo the Northern Ireland Business Angel Network and the University Challenge Fund.

Martin Bradley, managing director of Axis Three, said, “With rapid growth in the U.S. cosmetic surgery market there are vast opportunities for such innovative, technically advanced products. Together with the funding round, the Siemens partnership will help us to develop a streamlined, turnkey package and exploit these market opportunities.“

Christian Wiesinger, CFO of Siemens Technology Accelerator, said, “We discovered a perfect fit of Axis Three's existing offering in 3-D imaging hardware and software with our 3-D capturing technology. We look to Axis Three, with its . . . solid technology base, to transfer those technologies into marketable products.“

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