The second city’s University-NHS partnership Birmingham Health Partners (BHP) has made three high-profile appointments to its leadership board – announcing Professor Sir Robert Lechler and Dame Yve Buckland as Non-Executive Directors and former Chairman of NHS Improvement and Deputy Chairman of NHS England, Ed Smith, as independent Chair.
BHP is a strategic alliance which aims to rapidly translate healthcare research findings into new diagnostics, drugs and devices for patients. Its members are: University Hospitals Birmingham, England’s largest acute NHS Trust; Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospitals – the first NHS Foundation Trust of its kind; the University of Birmingham; and the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network.
Having recently stepped down from his roles as Senior Vice-President (Health) at King’s College London and Executive Director of King’s Health Partners Academic Health Sciences Centre, Professor Sir Robert Lechler brings a wealth of health research experience to the role of Non-Executive Director of BHP. A strong advocate of university-NHS partnership, Sir Robert was awarded a knighthood for Services to Academic Medicine in 2012 following a research career focused on clinical transplantation tolerance. His work has led to pioneering cell therapies to aid the immune tolerance of kidney and liver transplant recipients.
Commenting on his appointment to the BHP board, Professor Sir Robert commented: “The organisations which make up BHP could not be closer – either in their physical locations or their ethos. The ecosystem has been designated a Life Sciences Opportunity Zone by Government, and will soon begin work on the latest addition – the Birmingham Health Innovation Campus. BHP and its wider regional partners are already working to address pressing health challenges and deliver economic growth, and the refreshed board are ready to mobilise further advancements.”
Also joining BHP as Non-Executive Director is the outgoing chair of Birmingham’s Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Dame Yve Buckland. Her appointment to BHP coincides with her new role as Chair of Birmingham and Solihull integrated care system (ICS), which will forge closer links between primary, secondary and mental health care providers. She was appointed Dame Commander for services to public health in 2003 and has held the chair of the Health Education Authority, Health Development Agency, and the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement. Dame Yve explained: “The West Midlands has a large, diverse and stable population with many incredible health and education institutions, and both BHP and the new ICS enable integration of these organisations to benefit our citizens. In the wake of COVID-19, we have a valuable opportunity to rethink care pathways and streamline research delivery to ensure innovations reach patients more quickly. It’s a privilege to be part of both teams at such a crucial point in time.”
Ed Smith served as Pro Chancellor at the University of Birmingham for 10 years as well as leading roles with the NHS and holding the chair of a number of healthcare organisations and committees. He is passionate about delivering positive change for patients who rely on the NHS, having overseen the establishment of NHS Improvement and supporting the performance of a number of Trusts. He commented: “Excellence and innovation in the NHS is driven by research – from basic science in University laboratories to clinical trials in our hospitals. Birmingham Health Partners is a powerhouse of research at the heart of an ambitious city and region, with a strong track record of scaling innovation from the bench to the bedside at pace.
“COVID-19 has emphasised the critical importance of collaboration between NHS, academia and industry and, in these unprecedented times, the strength of the existing BHP alliance enabled us to adapt, collaborate and tackle the pandemic head-on. It is an incredibly challenging yet exciting time to join the partnership and direct its research strategy.”
BHP is committed to achieving health and economic impact through harnessing the combined strength and expertise of its members.