Reimagining the relationship between universities & the NHS

A guide for building and sustaining local, place-based collaborations

Reimagining the relationship post-COVID, not simply resuming it

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.

Developed by the Civic University Network and the NHS Confederation, our new report explores the critical relationship between universities and the NHS, and their collective role in contributing to their local society and economy.

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The report is intended to guide university and NHS leaders across the UK, and outlines five key principles which, taken together, can help to reimagine and reinvigorate university and NHS relationships – co-creating a renewed, post-pandemic partnership that puts place first.

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Additional Case Studies

The report highlights case studies of work already happening across the UK to reimagine the relationship between universities and NHS organisations. However, we didn’t have space to include all the great case studies submitted to us in the report, so we have included them here, grouped by principle. If you have an interesting case study to share with the Network, you can submit it here.

The University of Bradford

The Wolfson Centre for Applied Health Research

The centre, based at Bradford Royal Infirmary, brings together researchers from the Universities of Bradford and Leeds, with clinicians from Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The centre was made possible thanks to a £1m award from national charity The Wolfson Foundation. It’s three areas of focus are: Healthy Childhood, Healthy Ageing and High Quality and Safe Care. By combining the expertise of health researchers with clinicians who have daily contact with patients, the centre ensures that its findings are put rapidly into practice – resulting in better health and social care for those who need it most, right here in Yorkshire. The centre is also the base for Born in Bradford and the Bradford Institute of Health Research (BIHR).

Health and Social Economic Partnership

Co-chaired by Vice-Chancellor, Professor Shirley Congdon, the partnership of Bradford District and Craven anchor institutions connects academic and health and social care organisations. In bringing together leaders from across Health, Social Care, Further Education and Higher Education to work in new and different ways, the partnership’s intention is to have a positive impact on health and social care recruitment, education, research and innovation, and to drive health, wellbeing and economic prosperity in Bradford District and Craven.

The University of Northampton

The University of Northampton’s Vice Chancellor was Chair of the Northamptonshire Health and Wellbeing Board until it was separated into Boards for each of the new unitary local authorities in 2021. The University was also involved in developing the previous Health and Wellbeing Board Strategy for Northamptonshire. This involved mapping organisational priorities, reviewing available evidence from JSNA/Public Health Outcomes framework, facilitating consultation across organisations, and defining priorities and drafting the strategy.

Bradford Research Institute

NHS Trusts, the local CCG, and District Council in Bradford have partnered with the Bradford Research Institute to launch the City of Research: a place where all opportunities to participate in Bradford research can be shared with residents.

University of Northampton

The University of Northampton’s Institute for Public Safety, Crime and Justice project exploring Community Sentence Treatment Requirements is inputting into a national oversight group comprising representatives from the NHS, Public Health England, Ministry of Justice, Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service. Some of the knowledge generated has been included as part of NHS spending review exercises at a national level. The local Board includes representatives from several organisations, including Northampton Healthcare Foundation Trust, Northamptonshire Public Health, the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner and representatives from the third sector.

University of Bradford

The University of Bradford School of Nursing and Healthcare Leadership has a great reputation for excellence in learning and teaching built on a strong and collaborative partnership with our local NHS organisation. There is an annex of the University’s School of Nursing and Healthcare Leadership at the Mid Yorkshire Hospital (MYH) site, where mainly locally-recruited student nurses train and undertake their placement with the Mid Yorkshire Hospital NHS Trust. The Hospital provides classroom facilities for the teaching and learning, where the University’s academic staff provide teaching, training, supervision, and pastoral care to the students. Around 40 students join the programme at each intake. The first intake at MYH was in 2018 and the newly-qualified nurses graduated from the programme in April 2021. Upon graduating the majority of new nurses are employed by Mid Yorkshire Hospital NHS Trust. The partnership between SNHL and MYH enables local recruitment of applicants and supports a continual workforce pipeline into the NHS and specifically MYH.

Queen Mary University of London

Staff across Queen Mary University of London act as representatives of cross-sector networks in the borough of Tower Hamlets, under the umbrella of the Tower Hamlets Strategic Partnership; local government, NHS trusts, further and higher education, and the voluntary sectors come together to discuss local issues collaboratively – from skills opportunities for young people, a collective approach to managing the Covid-19 pandemic, or reducing racial inequalities across the borough.

Made in Wales

Made in Wales is a unique approach to growing a workforce from current staff and the local population, improving access to careers in health and care at any age by creating flexible entry points and transferrable career pathways – as well as ‘on-the-job’ development. Made in Wales will consist of structured programmes and transferrable learning opportunities: bite-size learning can be built into formal qualifications, it can underpin professional registration, and it can offer options for staff looking for alternative careers within the NHS.

University of Northampton

Social Prescribing

The Faculty of Health, Education and Society at the University of Northampton is working with the Clinical Commissioning Group and the local authorities to develop and implement the social prescribing agenda. The Faculty works to develop multiple tier education packages to educate social prescribers across the county including leadership and evaluation. We also developed and delivered a frailty education package to upskill the local workforce, including primary and secondary care providers, to develop capacity to provide appropriate evidenced base care and leadership in relation to frailty.

Integrated Care Systems

The University has been working closely with the new unitary authorities in Northamptonshire through the creation of Integrated Care Systems designed to enable seamless working between health and social care. This has resulted in a single Research and Innovation lead for the University Hospitals of Northamptonshire (UHN) NHS Trust (covering Northampton and Kettering General Hospitals). The Northamptonshire Director of Public Health and UHN are keen to improve the research capability and culture of staff in their organisations and the University is support this through its membership of the Northamptonshire Population Health Management Board Research and Innovation sub-committee.

The Universities of Sussex & Brighton

We are proud of our award-winning Research & Development Department which works in partnership with the Universities of Sussex and Brighton to design and deliver a programme of high-quality clinical research. A unique aspect of this work is a commitment to the implementation of findings from research studies. We have established ‘Research Clinics’ that offer evidence-informed interventions to patients, whilst systematically gathering data and conducting research to generate a virtuous cycle of improvement.

The current Research Clinics focus upon: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Distressing voices, Depression, and Eating Disorders – described within Appendix 4 of an All-Party Parliamentary Group report.

Queen Mary University of London

Project SEARCH

Queen Mary University of London is a proud partner of Project SEARCH: a workplace programme enabling young adults with learning difficulties or autism to earn valuable work experience. Young adults can carry out internships across different university departments, supported by onsite job coaches, to gain skills and experience needed to help them secure full-time paid employment in the future. Find out more.

Real Living Wage

Queen Mary University of London was the first accredited university in the UK to pay the real living wage. Based on research carried out in collaboration with London Citizens, the university implemented the real London Living Wage and a benefits package for all staff in 2006, and became a founding member of the Living Wage Foundation in 2011. Find out more.

Lancaster University / Healthier Fleetwood

Under the ‘Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on Fleetwood’, a project funded by NHS, Healthier Fleetwood and Lancaster University within the EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account Award, we investigated the impact of COVID-19 on Fleetwood by comparing the pre- (starting from 2016) and post- (from 2020 to summer 2021) COVID-19 health and wellbeing of this coastal town. We found that Initial falls in hospital admissions and primary care diagnosis in March 2020 were followed by sustained changes to health service activity for specific diagnostic and demographic groups, including for chronic kidney disease and young people. Increases in the number of people receiving Universal Credit and children on free school meals appear to be greater for those in the least deprived areas of the town. On going analyses will further describe the different impacts sustained by the different groups in Fleetwood community and the role of deprivation on this.

The University of Bradford

NHS Cadets

The University is collaborating with St. John Ambulance and the NHS on a new scheme that provides opportunities for young people from communities currently under-represented within the NHS and St John Ambulance, to explore roles in healthcare. There are currently two student cohorts of young people age 14-18, and the advanced cohort will be working with the outreach team to visit campus two evenings a week, for 36 weeks. During this time staff and students from the University will facilitate some of their sessions. The students will join interactive workshops with the University’s Outreach team, attend talks and interactive workshops with academics, visit the university facilities and spend time with student ambassadors and alumni. This will cover a range of topics from supporting students with their personal statements, to finding out about future careers in health.

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Prof Udy Archibong, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion is leading the Bradford Place Equalities Group, in partnership with health organisations, council and other public sector bodies.

University of Bradford

JU:MP is A local delivery pilot to better understand what helps people to be active in their communities and evaluate the impact of taking a whole systems approach to physical activity.

Get involved

Is your institution working collaboratively with anchor institutions to benefit health, wealth and wellbeing? We would love to hear from you and share your case studies across the Network. You can submit a case study using the form below.

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