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John Halliwell reflects on a year with Bristol Health Partners

17 September 2019

John Halliwell is completing a year’s secondment as Project Manager for Bristol Health Partners, supporting three of our Health Integration Teams. In his other role, he’s a Knowledge Exchange Manager at the University of Bristol. He reflects on his time with us.

My job at the University is to translate health research into impact. This involves helping academics to think in translational terms, understanding what their intervention will be when it’s in use, identifying how far along they are in terms of reaching that endpoint, and understanding the steps, funding and partnerships that will be needed to get them there.

When I saw the Bristol Health Partners secondment advertised I was keen to develop my understanding of commissioning and of public health, to work more directly with the NHS, to engage with patients and to do so in the city where I have worked all of my professional life and where my children are growing up.

I came to the secondment thinking that the Healthy Integration Team (HIT) model - which Bristol Health Partners has pioneered - represents a mechanism of translating research into real world applications. That’s partly the case, especially in terms of using research evidence to improve service delivery, but the HIT model is much more than that. The commitment to evaluation and patient and public involvement is what stands out for me, and you can only be true to that commitment if it exists at every level of the organisation. To illustrate this, halfway through the most recent Executive Group partnership meeting, we stopped for 10 minutes for our two patient representatives to feed back on the meeting thus far. The attendees, which included senior leaders from the Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS Trusts, and Bristol City Council, listened with some trepidation, before commenting how, in other meetings in their professional lives, not everyone was made welcome and not every voice was heard.

My first few months were extremely busy as I worked across Stroke, Sexual Health, Chronic Kidney Disease, Bristol Bones and Joints, and Active Ageing (APPHLE) HITs. The APPHLE HIT took me out of my comfort zone, working across community organisations in areas of Bristol which I hadn’t encountered in my previous work at the University, including Fishponds, Ashton and Hartcliffe. I worked closely with Karen Lloyd, co-Director of the HIT and Manager of Active Ageing Bristol, and was inspired by her commitment to get things done. At the heart of the HIT model is working cross-sector to solve problems across the whole health and social care system to improve the delivery of care, and Karen, like so many of our colleagues who make change happen through the activities of our HITs, is a champion of that kind of collaborative working.

At Bristol Health Partners we organise a lot of events, where my natural belligerence has led to me fulfilling the role of calling time on speakers (although even my physical presence and stern glare weren’t enough to stop Dr Ben Goldacre in full flow at the Exploring Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care event.)

At the HIT annual conference, where I resumed my duties as chief timer of talks, the session on commissioning was an eye opener. Julian Walker, who chaired that session, wanted to uncover the human drama behind the difficult decisions commissioners have to make - they understand that those decisions have profound implications on the lives and health of individuals and on their families, and that this responsibility affects them as people. In my other knowledge exchange work I place huge value on empathy and emotional intelligence in professional practice, both in terms of designing interventions with an understanding of the needs of end users and being able to work together with people who have different cultural drivers. When you apply those qualities to commissioning and to an understanding of service delivery in the context of increasing health inequalities across our region, I can only admire the dedication and commitment of those making the decisions.

I have learned a great deal from my Bristol Health Partners experience. I’ve broadened and deepened my understanding of what constitutes evidence. I can better conceive of health research within a wider context of the whole system of health and social care provision, and I’ve been able to contribute to HITs which are dedicated to improving the patient experience. Again, much of this comes back to the empathy and emotional intelligence that underscores collaborative working, and the team are experts in applying those skills at all levels of administration, project management, evaluation, communication and leadership.


We are now recruiting for a Senior Project Manager. Find out more about the vacancy

John Halliwell reflects on a year with Bristol Health Partners
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