Universities and NHS organisations need to develop new refreshed forms of collaboration to deal with current and future challenges rather than resuming existing pre-pandemic relationships, according to a new report launched at Civic University Network webinar event.

The relationship between universities and NHS organisations is one of the oldest, strongest, and most valuable local partnerships in the UK, but the unprecedented health, human, and economic toll of COVID has exacerbated the existing inequalities within our society, forcing anchor institutions to rethink how they create positive impact for their communities.

The report, Reimagining the relationship between universities and the NHS was jointly published by the Civic University Network, a national network led by Sheffield Hallam University, and the NHS Confederation, the organisation that brings together, supports, and speaks for the whole healthcare system in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

The Civic University Network supports universities to develop and embed civic aspirations to drive positive change.

Intended as a guide for university and NHS leaders across the UK, the report sets out a pioneering vision for reinvigorated relationships between universities and the NHS. It outlines five key principles which, taken together, can help to reimagine university and NHS relationships, and co-create renewed post-pandemic partnerships that put place first.

A year in the making, the report was developed by the NHS Confederation and Civic University Network partners Queen Mary University of London and Newcastle University, who launched it at an event bringing together key civic leaders from universities and NHS organisations. It highlights and draws learning from successful partnerships across the UK, including from Collaborative Newcastle, an innovative and ambitious partnership seeking to improve the health, wealth, and wellbeing in the region.

Local leaders are challenged to use the report to bring together a coalition of the willing in their place, test the five principles, and evaluate their collaborative working, through regional roundtables with anchor institutions. Doing so, the report argues, could help local leaders to unlock their collective power to drive positive change for their communities.

The recording of the report launch  and the full report can be accessed by clicking below:

Watch the recording from the webinar here

View the slides used during the event

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Matthew Taylor, CEO of the NHS Confederation, said: “The pandemic has shown the very best of what the NHS and universities can do in partnership, but it has also exposed widening local inequalities throughout our shared communities. The next stage of this relationship, one of the strongest and oldest we have, must be centred around a vision for making our places and populations both better and better off.”

Dame Jackie Daniel, CEO of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The NHS is at its best when it not only provides outstanding care, but also works with partners to support people’s health, wealth and wellbeing. This guide will be invaluable in helping NHS organisations and Universities to collaborate so that together we can improve life chances in our communities.”

Greg Burke, Director of Place and Civic Engagement, Sheffield Hallam University and Director of the Civic University Network, said: “If we are to address inequalities, reimagining the relationships between universities and NHS organisations is vital. There are practical examples of outstanding university and NHS collaborations from across the UK supporting communities in their place; but more could be done. I am confident that the five principles set out in this report will encourage local leaders to work together to build a roadmap towards better health, wealth and wellbeing for their local communities.”