Published on: Friday 24th September 2021

Well-Deserved Retirement For Sean And Carol                                And A Warm Welcome To Jason

sean and carol.JPGWest Yorkshire and Harrogate Cancer Alliance is marking both the end of an era with the retirement of Professor Sean Duffy and Carol Ferguson, and an exciting new chapter as Jason Pawluk joins the team as Programme Director. 

Sean and Carol, who have spearheaded the development of the Cancer Alliance from day one as Clinical Lead and Programme Director respectively, will be retiring at the end of the month (September), leaving a huge legacy in cancer services both regionally and nationally.

Their contributions not only to cancer but also to the wider NHS have helped to position West Yorkshire and Harrogate as a national exemplar in terms of partnership and collaboration, as well as supporting innovation and transformation in service delivery and patient experience.

Jason Pawluk.jpgIan Holmes, Director for the Health and Care Partnership, said: “Sean and Carol have made a huge contribution to improving cancer services in our region over the last two decades.  They have also been mainstays of our integrated care system since day one.  They will both be missed hugely but leave a strong legacy for the future of the Alliance.”

As the Alliance moves forward into a new chapter, Jason Pawluk, (pictured  left), joins the team as its new Programme Director and brings to the role a wealth of experience in strategic and operational cancer service management, improvement and wider transformation across London and the North West of England. Jason was latterly Delivery Director for the NHS Transformation Unit, working across the Manchester area.

Recruitment to the post of Clinical Lead is continuing and interim arrangements following Sean’s retirement remain under discussion.


'Dedicated clinician who has improved cancer outcomes in Leeds and the country to retire' - read the article on Sean's retirement in the Yorkshire Evening Post - 1st October 2021


Formidable Partnership

Sean and Carol were instrumental in establishing the WYH Cancer Alliance five years ago, when 19 such Alliances were established by NHS England to implement the recommendations of the independent national cancer taskforce in its report of May 2016.

Their primary role was to steer the Cancer Alliance in its work to determine how national funding should be invested in a transformation programme to improve survival, early diagnosis, patient experience and long-term quality of life across a whole population; to reduce variability in care and treatment; to pilot innovative approaches and to share best practice.

But this wasn’t the first iteration of this formidable working partnership. Sean and Carol had already worked closely together in a previous life, both at national level and also within the Yorkshire Cancer Network – in many ways the forerunner of the Cancer Alliance.

Rob Webster.jpgRob Webster, CEO Lead for the WYH Health and Care Partnership, pictured right,  recalls those early days on the patch.

Said Rob: “I first worked with Sean and Carol when I chaired the Yorkshire Cancer Network from 2007-2011. Their passion for excellence, support for clinical leadership and firm commitment to coproduction with people were obvious from day one. Their support for the Network meant that cancer services and treatments improved every year. They subsequently took their skills to national roles before we welcomed them back to run our Cancer Alliance in West Yorkshire and Harrogate.

“Many things had changed in health and care while they had been away, yet they were a welcome constant, unchanged in their visible leadership and ambition for things to keep getting better.”

Sean and Carol’s long-standing clinician/manager partnership began in 2005 when Sean became Clinical Director of the Yorkshire Cancer Network and was cemented further when Sean was appointed as National Clinical Director for Cancer in 2013 and Carol was released on secondment to provide senior management support.

They have each brought differing but strong and complementary career backgrounds and skills to their working partnership over the years.

Clinician, Manager, Leader, Academic

A Professor of Healthcare Innovation in Cancer, Sean has many years’ experience as a clinician, manager and leader, using his academic interests in health services research to underpin his wide variety of roles. His strong platform of research work also encompasses medical education, along with endometrial pathology.

Sean has been awarded a number of lectureships and travelling fellowships and in 2002, he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Gynaecologists, in recognition of his contribution to the advancement of the science and practice of obstetrics and gynaecology.

He has been extensively involved in the design and development of undergraduate teaching in Yorkshire, more specifically as a former Director of Learning and Teaching for the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds.

Alongside his work as Cancer Alliance Clinical Lead for the past five years, Sean has also been the Strategic Clinical Lead for the Leeds Cancer Centre and Senior Clinical Lead for the West Yorkshire and Harrogate System Leadership Executive. Sean is also retiring from his clinical practice in gynaecology services at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, where he was also a Clinical Director between 2002 and 2007.

Until earlier this year, Sean was External Senior Clinical Advisor to the External Quality Assurance Programme for Cancer with Health Improvement Scotland. He is also a former Chair of both the Cancer and Blood Programme of Care and Specialised Cancer Clinical Reference Group with NHS England.

As in his role as National Director, Sean was central to the development of the 2016 cancer strategy, Achieving World Class Outcomes, covering both specialised and non-specialised services.

His strong clinical leadership, extensive networks and political astuteness stood him in great stead. His skills in translating complex issues into plain language, his natural affinity for public speaking and his approachable manner made him an ideal spokesperson for NHS England to the community at large. This has continued into his role with the Cancer Alliance.

Possibly the greatest element of the legacy left by Sean and Carol is the impact of their influence on policy making at national level. Partnership and collaboration has been at the heart of all their work together.

During Sean’s time as National Clinical Director, they formed a collaboration with Cancer Research UK and Macmillan, which became the ACE programme, out of which grew the significant national policy priorities around the expansion of Rapid Diagnostic Centres and Targeted Lung Health Checks, bringing huge benefits to patients around the country.

Authoritative yet understated style

Carol’s authoritative yet understated management style has played a huge part in developing the Alliance’s extensive networks across the whole of the partnership. “I’ve always been particularly interested in a management style that encourages people to deliver because they want to, not because they have to, so working in networks and systems outside of conventional organisational boundaries and hierarchies is of particular interest,” she said.

Carol began her career as a professional health economist in the Department of Health and then the University of York. She moved into the NHS in 1989 and worked in a variety of roles covering data analysis, general management, planning, service redesign and commissioning in regional, local health authority and primary care organisations.

Having grown up in a family significantly affected by cancer, her professional involvement came following the publication of the Calman-Hine Report in 1995, when she took the planning lead for its implementation in North Yorkshire.

In April 2001, she joined the Yorkshire Cancer Network as led for service improvement and redesign, and subsequently became the network’s lead manager. Having been told by her then Chief Executive that it couldn’t be a long-term career move, Carol loved the work so much that she stayed until networks were dissolved in 2013.

In December of that year, she was released on secondment to support Sean in his role as National Clinical Director, working as part of a small cancer programme team at NHS England. Her three years working at national level taught her a huge amount about politics at that level in both the statutory and third sector.

Retirement Plans

Sean and Carol are both looking forward to their retirement – but with very different ideas about how they will spend it.

Sean is planning to continue his passion for gardening, and ultimately to return with his wife to their Irish homeland with a move to West Cork and regular visits by their two grown-up sons.

Together with her husband Brian, Carol will be spending more time at their holiday lodge by the sea in North Yorkshire, joined whenever possible by their son and daughter and their respective partners. Already known to many of her colleagues as a great animal lover, Carol will be enjoying lots of long beach and country walks with her beloved rough collies and hacking around the villages on her horse, Casper the Cob.

Looking forward to continuing transformation of care and outcomes

In taking over the reins for West Yorkshire and Harrogate, Jason said he was excited to be joining the Cancer Alliance at such pivotal point in its development as part of the wider Health and Care Partnership.

“It’s clear that so much has been achieved so far, through the direction of the Cancer Alliance Board, the leadership of Sean and Carol, and the commitment, creativity and innovation of place-based teams. It’s great to be arriving at such a crucial and interesting time for the wider Integrated Care System, with the opportunities it presents for collaboration across programme areas and improving overall population health and wellbeing.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to know our colleagues across the patch, understanding what matters most to people directly affected by cancer in West Yorkshire and Harrogate, and to focus on delivering the continuing transformation in cancer care and outcomes locally.”

Having graduated from the University of Oxford with a Degree in Modern History, he went on to complete a Masters in Healthcare Management and Leadership at the Universities of Birmingham and Manchester, before joining the NHS Management Training Scheme (MTS).

Amongst his early experiences was time spent in New Zealand on an MTS study programme, where he gained experience of working in health promotion for older people, and he retains strong interests in healthcare policy and leadership development.

Jason worked in cancer services for nine years in operational, change and strategy roles before moving to his previous role in the NHS Transformation Unit.  His work included spells with the South West London Cancer Network, Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust. 

He’s been particularly proud to work on capital redevelopment programmes resulting in new state-of-the-art Cancer Centres at Guy’s Hospital and the new Clatterbridge site in Liverpool in particular.

During his time at Clatterbridge, and as Strategic Cancer Networks were coming to an end, Jason helped to set up the Cheshire and Merseyside Cancer Alliance, working with local stakeholders to deliver the policy direction around the independent cancer taskforce report, mirroring the approach which was taken here in West Yorkshire and Harrogate.

In 2018, Jason joined the NHS Transformation Unit as Delivery Director, an internal NHS consultancy role, where he led several high-profile projects, including a planned reconfiguration of hospital services in Central Lancashire.

Jason was born in the North West, and currently lives in Warrington. In his spare time, he enjoys cricket and can be found on a summer weekend afternoon in one of the many parks in Cheshire, standing in the middle and donning a white coat whilst umpiring a game.  Jason was keen to point out, however, that whilst he is delighted to be taking up a role on the other side of the Pennines, his main hobby beyond the short British summer - loyalty to Rochdale Football Club - will be staying firmly as it is!    

In welcoming Jason and thanking Sean and Carol, Rob Webster said:

“I believe I speak for colleagues across our partnership, our partners and the patients who work alongside us in transforming services and improving care, as I thank Sean and Carol for everything they have done for people in West Yorkshire and Harrogate.  I will really miss them.”

“Jason is a very welcome addition to the team who, together with our new Clinical Lead once appointed, is strongly placed to use his own experience and leadership style to take the Cancer Alliance forward as part of a strengthened and redesigned ICS."