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Our new Director David Relph on taking up the mantle

13 March 2014

I'm looking forward immensely to taking over the role of Director of Bristol Health Partners, and I wanted to start by paying tribute to the work that Professor Peter Mathieson and many others have done during the first few years of the Partnership. Peter has outlined some of the key achievements of the Partnership to date - I want to back that up by sharing some of the things that have really struck me about Bristol Health Partners during the short time that I have been involved in the Partnership.

The first is that the Partnership is built on very close - and strengthening - relationships that are not mandated, but exist because of the mutual benefit that individuals and organisations can see in collaborating. This makes the Partnership unusual - because much of the collaboration taking place around the health and other systems at the moment is actually underpinned and in cases driven by structures that demand compliance rather than promote commitment. Bristol Health Partners is very much the latter - and for me this is a key element in its distinctiveness and potential impact.

The second point is that Bristol Health Partners has been remarkably effective with what has actually been a relatively modest input. There is no doubt in my mind that the existence of Bristol Health Partners has led to some very important and effective work, and has also improved our collective reputation (and this applies more widely than just in terms of the partner organisations) in a way that we can see playing out in very tangible terms in, for example, the success of the CLAHRC bid. Bristol Health Partners - and the way the different organisations have collaborated - tells a very positive story about our city and region.

I will start as Director in April, and I aim to get around in the next few months and speak to as many people as possible. In advance of that I wanted to share a little of my background, what motivates me and what I plan to focus on as I start work.

I've had a varied career, which began after three years here in Bristol at university. My first career was in the military, where I spent 15 years in a variety of roles including a good deal of operational work as well as time spent in Whitehall developing policy and national security strategy with Ministers and others. I found the mix of very directly people-focused roles and those looking at big system challenges hugely stimulating. The experience was also formative for me in terms of my experience of the powerful effect of good leadership and my developing understanding that the best and most lasting results often occur when people and organisations collaborate to tackle systemic challenges.

When I finished in the military I wanted to continue working in fields which had that same sense of complexity, challenge, and importance. Accordingly, I looked for opportunities in energy and health - and my first role outside the army was working for the Carbon Trust, whose mission is to accelerate the transition to a low carbon economy. My specific work there was to do with promoting low carbon innovation - and on working out just where to focus effort and support to have the greatest effect.

I moved from the Carbon Trust into my role in University Hospitals Bristol, where I am the Head of Strategy and Business Planning. Working in the health system has been an enormous privilege and hugely stimulating - and I have become increasingly focused on understanding the opportunities we have within the health system to collaborate to tackle the systemic challenges we face, and to focus effort in those areas that will have the most effect. These are themes that I have worked on throughout my career - albeit in very different areas - and they are themes that I want to continue to focus on in my tenure as Director.

As I said when I was confirmed in the role, my aim is to work with you all to develop and set out an ambitious and realistic vision for the impact that we have together and to help create the conditions that will help the Partnership - and those we serve - to thrive over the next five years.

There is a huge amount to celebrate in the work of Bristol Health Partners so far, and a huge amount of opportunity in terms of where the Partnership goes next. I am very strongly motivated by the contribution that the Partnership can make to the city and to our region. I aspire to take Bristol Health Partners to the next level in terms of its ambition, scope and impact, and I'm looking forward to working with people across Bristol Health Partners and the city region as we shape the Partnership's future direction.

Crucially, though, I want to hear what you think. I shall be getting around to spend time with all the partner organisations and of course all the HITs, the teams on whom much of the excellent reputation Bristol Health Partners has developed is built. But I also want to emphasise that my electronic door is always open and I would like to hear from anyone who has ideas about how, as a Partnership, we can focus on the areas that will have most impact and grasp opportunities to tackle some of the systemic challenges that face us.

I look forward to meeting you - or hearing from you - soon, and to working with you over the coming months.

With best wishes, David Relph

Our new Director David Relph on taking up the mantle
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