Zoe Trinder-Widdess has been Communications Manager with Bristol Health Partners for the last six years, but will be leaving the role at the end of September. Here she reflects on her time with the team.
It’s been more than six years since I joined the Bristol Health Partners team as Communications Manager, and it’s startling to reflect on the journey this role has taken me on.
The Communications Manager role was newly created at the time, and I came to it as a digital comms expert, specialising in large, complex organisations with a national reach, like the Audit Commission and the National Trust. At those organisations, I was a small cog in a big comms machine.
Bristol Health Partners couldn’t have been more different – my focus was suddenly hyper-local and I was the sum total of the comms team. And although digital was a big part of what I did for Bristol Health Partners, the role allowed me to broaden my skills to print, events, media and strategy. I've become a more rounded comms professional.
Working for Bristol Health Partners has made me see the world in a different way. It’s deepened my understanding of what makes us healthy, as a city and as individuals. I can now see how everything, from how often we get to enjoy nature to the quality of our friendships, has an impact on our health. I now appreciate the complex interactions of health, environment, social status and public services: how who we are, where we live, the opportunities we do or don’t have, dictate so much about how healthy we are.
And my definition of how health is supported has broadened. A city's health is about so much more than NHS services, vital and in need of protection as they are. Thanks mainly to the Health Integration Team (HIT) model, I’ve worked with many different people and organisations across Bristol, giving me insight into how a city works. I’ve had the privilege of getting to know a vast range of people, from clinicians and researchers to the grassroots people working in the voluntary sector and our communities. Every one of them has a part to play in the city’s health ecology.
And it really is the people that I’ve worked with that have made this job so worthwhile. The core Bristol Health Partners team are so dedicated and creative, achieving so much with so little. They are some of the best colleagues I’ve ever had. I will also miss the many people who work so tirelessly in the HITs, pushing against orthodoxy to do things in new ways.
Another of the joys of the Bristol Health Partners role was that being the only comms person meant I could really make it my own. I’ve done so many things I would never have dreamed of when I joined the team, from speaking on local radio about Bristol’s 20mph limits, walking and Healthy City Week, to giving a speech at the Rise for Climate rally. I’ve even been on the local ITV news. It’s opened a whole world of possibility.
Alongside all this, Bristol Health Partners has given me the opportunity to develop my passion for research communication. It is as a direct result of my Bristol Health Partners role that I started working for the National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health and Care West (NIHR CLAHRC West) - soon to become the Applied Research Collaboration or ARC West.
Bristol Health Partners also supported me to complete UWE’s Postgraduate Certificate in Science Communication, alongside CLAHRC West who funded it. Doing this course, while challenging alongside working full-time and balancing family commitments, expanded my horizons: from writing pieces for my coursework which went on to get published to generating freelance work. It also made me realise that health research communication is what I want to do long term.
So that’s why I’m stepping down from my Bristol Health Partners role at the end of September, to focus on developing my existing NIHR communications roles at the Applied Research Collaboration West (ARC West) and NIHR Bristol Biomedical Centre.
It hasn’t always been easy working at the intersection of so many organisations and sectors. Basic things like budgets, IT and HR are so much more challenging when you’re collaborating in this way. But the rewards outweigh these inconveniences. I think that, more than seven years on from the start of Bristol Health Partners, it’s telling that it’s the longest running local health partnership in the country and the only one that’s been able to make the HIT model work. It really is unique. We are still breaking new ground, and I know that, as I depart, the work of Bristol Health Partners will remain as cutting edge and vital as when I first joined the team.