Annual Review 2022-23: leaders' foreword

Our Chair Maria Kane OBE and our Director Professor David Wynick introduce the year's highlights.

Changes to the way health and care is organised nationally came into effect over the last year, and our partnership has responded with typical agility and flexibility.

The Integrated Care Board for Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire – the statutory body within the wider Integrated Care System (ICS) for the area, known as the Healthier Together Partnership – came into being on 1 July 2022. We were the first Academic Health Science Centre to establish a fully integrated relationship with its ICS through our Research & Innovation Steering Group and, one year on, the relationship is going from strength to strength.

We have reviewed ICS programmes, identified current – and potential – research and innovation connections, and begun to establish new connections between research experts and those making decisions about our health and care services. We were pleased to see our efforts recognised as an example of best practice in the NHS’s recent guidance for integrated care systems.

We now have six expert public contributors at leadership level, across our Research & Innovation Steering Group and our Board. The partnership is moving towards ensuring that diverse voices of people with lived experience can be reflected in our work – yet, at the same time, we are mindful of the many challenges that we face in reaching this goal.

On behalf of the Integrated Care Board, we helped secure significant NHS England funding to improve equality, diversity and inclusion in health and care research locally. The emerging Research Engagement Network – which is focusing on racial inequalities – will help to co-ordinate and moderate the approach of researchers in linking with communities.  One of our brilliant public contributors, Soumeya Bouacida, talks more about this project in her reflection on the year.

In the context of the Research Engagement Network, it has been heartening to see the progress of Health Integration Teams’ NHS Charities Together projects, which together will benefit thousands of people in the region. These include a new continence clinic for Somali women up and running in East Bristol, an app to support people newly diagnosed with an inflammatory rheumatic disease, and bespoke, community-based arts interventions delivered for people living with dementia.

Of course, 2022-23 also marked 10 years of our partnership, which we celebrated at our first in-person conference since the pandemic. We welcomed Professor Sir Stephen Powis, National Medical Director for NHS England, who reflected on how the unique challenges of COVID-19 broke the boundaries of what research could achieve. We also premiered our new film, featuring colleagues from our partner organisations and public contributors talking about what it’s like to work with us and the difference we make. Please share this film wherever you can, to help us spread the word about the power of the partnership in improving the health and care people experience across the region.

We are both honoured to be helping to lead the Bristol Health Partnership, which is made so rich by the talent, commitment and willingness to learn of all those who work within it. Thank you for all that you do.