Maria Kane: Bristol Health Partners and us

In this new blog, Maria Kane OBE discusses how the acute NHS Trust she leads benefits from being part of Bristol Health Partners.

  • 10th January 2023

Like many leaders in healthcare, I wear multiple hats. Not only am I Chief Executive of North Bristol NHS Trust, but I’m also Chair of Bristol Health Partners Academic Health Science Centre. I have been in the role since last April and its Board recently confirmed that I will continue as Chair until 2025.

Our NHS Trust is one of 11 organisations in the region – including our integrated care system, other NHS Trusts, local councils and universities – which make up the partnership along with patient and public representatives. We have been members since Bristol Health Partners formed a decade ago, and we continue to value our involvement.

At a time of historic pressure on our organisation and the local health and care system, being involved in a partnership that relentlessly focuses on improvement, by bringing together diverse voices across research, services and communities, provides many reasons to be positive. I’m really keen that more of our staff and patients know about and get involved in the partnership. This short film might help:

There are eight Academic Health Science Centres across England, but Bristol Health Partners is unique because it works through Health Integration Teams (HITs). These HITs focus on specific health conditions and public health challenges.

HITs identify evidence gaps that can be bridged by new research, pursue funding opportunities and connect the right people, across a complex regional health and care system, to try and make incremental improvements to the way the system works.  At Bristol Health Partners’ recent conference, it was brilliant to hear about all of the progress being made and to share this with National Medical Director Sir Stephen Powis.

Each HIT is set up differently, but they are all led by experts who are not only passionate about improving health and care for people in our region but also and generous with their time, which they give in addition to their day-to-day work. I’m proud that so much of the expertise that feeds into Bristol Health Partners comes from our NHS Trust.

For example, the Bladder and Bowel Confidence HIT leadership team draws on clinical expertise in urology and colorectal surgery in Marcus Drake, Kathryn McCarthy and Paul Abrams. The Kidney Disease HIT is led by two of our consultant nephrologists, Dominic Taylor and Pippa Bailey, and the Healthy Weight HIT has a co-director in Karen Coulman who, while employed by the University of Bristol, also works in our Nutrition and Dietetics team.

Having staff involved in Bristol Health Partners at a high level brings benefits for our NHS Trust too, via the skills and experiences they bring back to their day job. HIT directors must show leadership, work alongside people from many different disciplines, organisations and backgrounds, including those with lived experience of a health condition, and be able to navigate institutional boundaries to make progress in areas that can often seem intractable.

A great example of this can be found in the Stroke HIT, co-led by North Bristol consultant Phil Clatworthy, alongside public contributors with lived experience of stroke. Their collaboration was crucial in the process of redesigning stroke services in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, which led to Southmead being announced as the regional hub for hyper-acute stroke treatment. More about that in another blog.

I‘m excited to be continuing in my leadership role with the partnership, to have many more opportunities to celebrate and support work across our region that improves the lives of people that live here. After all, that’s what we’re all here for – no matter what ‘hat’ we’re wearing!

I hope this is the first of many blog posts: next time I’ll be passing the baton to one of my fellow Bristol Health Partners Board members, asking them what belonging to the partnership means for their organisation.