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Prof Richard Trembath on his two-year anniversary with King’s Health Partners

Prof Richard Trembath reflects on two years as KHP Executive Director.Richard tRembath Chief Exec KHP crop

My first two years with King’s Health Partners (KHP) have been a privilege and a pleasure; a privilege to work with a wide range of committed professional and partners on issues that matter most in the translation of research into practice, and to improve outcomes and experience for our patients, staff and students. A pleasure to see the energy and focus our teams have applied to their work and our partnership as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a defining feature of these past two years. I have spoken previously on my personal pride in the response of our NHS and university colleagues and the initiatives delivered through the Academic Health Sciences Centre.  Our Impact Report last year highlighted our wide-ranging response, including: the development of new care pathways and guidelines (breathlessness, oxygen in the community), sector-wide mutual aid for intensive care, and working with industry to develop rapid insights about - and response to - the virus (including the KHP ZOE COVID-19 Symptom Tracker app, Life Lines virtual visiting for ICU patients and their families, and life sciences partnerships supporting the genome sequencing of the virus).  

Many of our students were part of the initial pandemic response and have faced unprecedented challenges. I was delighted to speak with many of them at our recent graduation ceremonies, and whilst acknowledging the challenges also hearing their praise for how our staff and partnership responded in a year unlike any other. Our teams and partnership have continued to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic, and we will continue to support and foster innovation as we support recovery across our services.

This year, I am extremely proud of our Research Excellence Framework results which recognised King’s College London as a world-leading institution and research environment, including many of the highest 4* ratings being awarded across the four health and life sciences faculties. Our strength across all faculties, including arts and sciences, is demonstrated in the continued growth of research awards; in 2021/22, we secured £292 million in new awards  which is an increase of 8% on the previous year. Since joining King’s Health Partners, I have continually sought ways to support and foster cross-faculty collaboration, which was highlighted in the range of contributions from across disciplines to our Annual Conference last year.   

Our Clinical Academic Groups (CAGs) remain central to supporting and enabling innovation across boundaries: professional, disciplinary, and organisational. Over the last eighteen months, I have met with the leaders and executive teams of all our CAGs to understand their achievements and challenges. The achievements are significant. For example:

We have continued to develop our CAG model, responding to feedback from our listening exercises. We recently launched our new Allergy & Respiratory Care CAG, and said thank you to the Mental Health Quality Improvement CAG. In June, I attended the 10 year birthday for the Pharmaceutical Sciences CAG. The CAG Executive were overwhelmingly positive and enthusiastic about the opportunities we continue to realise through our partnership, and I look forward to spending more time in-person with colleagues from across our 21 CAGs.

We have also come together to acknowledge remarkable contributions to KHP.  In March, we said huge thank you to Prof Anne Greenough for all the work she has put in over 12 years’ as Director of Education and Training.

We have welcomed Dr Claire Mallinson as our new KHP Director of Training and Education. In September, over 80 members of education, training and CAG teams come together to design and co-produce the priority themes for our new Education and Training strategy. 

Our Clinical Academic Partnerships continued to build on their impact and benefits with local services, partners and the wider system. In particular, I was encouraged to see:

  • The KHP Women’s Children’s Health team mobilise their resilient health system model as an underpinning framework for our new joint KHP and SE London ICS Blueprint for integrating health data sciences. The team also made good progress with the Ask the Institute platform supporting clinical research staff navigate research methodologies advice.
  • In KHP Cardiovascular and Respiratory Partnership, the launch of the KCL Centre for Lung Health was a key moment of the early summer and shows real potential to grow our respiratory medicine research even further. The new Memorandum of Understanding for the Cardiovascular teams creates a strong basis for joint partnership working going forward.
  • In KHP Neurosciences, the developments in the care models for patients with functional neurological disorders has real potential to reduce inequalities of care across the whole system. In research, their output has been phenomenal this year with them ranking 4th globally for the number of citations in the top 10% and 2nd in the UK for research power.
  • In KHP Diabetes, Endocrinology & Obesity, the clinical academic partnership work with the SE London ICS and the Health Innovation Network, our local Academic Health Science Network, has created a strong focus on both diabetes and obesity service delivery and joint partnership opportunities with primary, secondary, tertiary care, community trusts and the voluntary sector. The team continue with their European partnership programme with the H20 health observatory.
  • In KHP Haematology, the development of the programme and appointment of a new joint clinical leadership team continues to develop. The joint partnership programme with Bristol Myers Squibb (to be showcased in the forthcoming Annual Conference) continues to develop our understand of the role of clonal haematopoiesis in developing our understanding of disease.

Our advancements together in life sciences this past year have delivered impacts far beyond what may have been achieved in silo. So much so that this year’s KHP Annual Conference is entirely dedicated to spotlighting our transformations in human health through partnership and collaboration. It will showcase an array of inspirational projects and case studies, from the launch of the King’s Centre for Lung Health and the SC1 Innovation District, the development of our Med Tech partnership KHP Ventures, our work in precision medicine and wearable devices, to collaborations with cell and gene therapy start-ups, and other collaborations with leading companies such as UCB (with whom we have just renewed our strategic partnership).

This event, together with our forthcoming Impact Report for 2021-2022 will illustrate how we utilise our bandwidth to achieve the continuous innovation that is so important in challenging times. It is the innovation support that we offer that will help ensure our partners continue to deliver the exacting and high standards for our mission in healthcare, research and education as an Academic Health Sciences Centre.  

So where do we take this energy to next in the face of the challenges that lie ahead? Right now, KHP is engaging in a mid-term review as part of its National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) accreditation period and five-year plan, which is an opportune chance to reflect on our position in the partnership and our achievements. Although we recognise the disappointment in the recent round of BRC renewals for Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS FT and King’s College London, our partners have our unwavering support for maintaining globally renowned translational research and experimental medicine.

The reality is that the world has changed substantially since we launched our five-year plan. Leading health and university services and partnerships has never been more challenging. We may now need to adjust our course somewhat. Our single largest opportunity is the integration of health data sciences and I feel incredibly optimistic about how we will bring our assets and skills together as we move forward as a partnership.

I am excited to see what the next two years brings and look forward to showcasing our opportunities and talent from across the partners and beyond at the KHP Annual Conference on 27th October.  

I would like to thank each and all of you for the continued focus, motivation and support you all share with colleagues and invite you to work with us to further inspire the years ahead.