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Out-going Director Peter Mathieson bids farewell

13 March 2014

I am pleased to have the opportunity to write a valedictory piece for the Bristol Health Partners newsletter. I will not repeat the analysis of the first few years, the current position and the future challenges that I wrote previously: instead I will confine myself to some personal observations and reflections on the Bristol area scene and what I will miss about it.

First however, sincere congratulations to David Relph on his appointment as the next Director; I wish him and all the ever-growing band of people that are working under the banner of Bristol Health Partners all the very best for the future.

I firmly believe that we have started something very exciting here and that there is the potential to achieve lasting change for the Bristol area. The main limiting factor might be the extent of the collective ambition of partner organisations, their staff and students: sometimes Bristol suffers from lack of self-belief (my theory has always been, with apologies to City and Rovers fans, that there is a football analogy here: Bristol is not big enough for two football teams and we might have one in the Premiership if resources could be pooled. Any message for the NHS there?)

Nevertheless, this has been a great place to work: I have spent the last eighteen and a half years of my life working for the University of Bristol and the last five years or so working on the project that eventually became Bristol Health Partners.

The breadth of talent, energy and potential that is available here is wonderful. The city has amazing history: yes, slavery, tobacco and alcohol but also Cabot, Brunel and Concorde. Did you know that Bristol is the home of chocolate? Now we have major industries including the BBC, Rolls Royce, Aerospace, Aardman. We (you) need to engage more effectively with these local strengths, harness the creativity and enthusiasm of the local population, work together to make Bristol famous for something new: joined-up working to improve health outcomes based on research, evidence and evaluation.

Bristol is a very popular place to go to university: of course this says a lot about the strengths of our two universities, but it also speaks volumes about the attractions of the city and surrounding area as a place to live and study. It is also a popular place to live and work in the longer term. Both my children were educated here and the majority of their school friends have returned to this area after going to university or working elsewhere: the power of the 'pull back' to return to Bristol is not to be under-estimated.

The city has seriously under-privileged areas with much to gain from improvements in population health: the biomedical workers of the area have a moral obligation, as well as a clear opportunity, to bring their considerable expertise to bear on addressing health issues and working tirelessly to improve the lot of the local citizen. Bristol Health Partners is not the only medium for this work to continue but it is a potentially powerful one and as I leave Bristol, I feel optimistic that great things are happening. I feel slightly sad that I won't be here to join you in trying to achieve meaningful outcomes, but I will watch with interest from 6,000 miles away.

Finally, a sincere thank you to everyone with whom I have worked here: it has been a pleasure. Farewell, good luck and keep up the good work!

With best regards, Peter Mathieson

Out-going Director Peter Mathieson bids farewell
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