Working collaboratively to address the key challenges of health, prosperity and wellbeing in our region

By Professor Dianne Ford, Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor in Health and Life Sciences, at Northumbria University.


First, I want to say how delighted I am that Northumbria University can now support and strengthen its impact through NHIP as a member of the Strategy Board. I am a committed advocate of working closely with regional partners to translate research and expertise in workforce development and education that will drive innovation and positive impact. Northumbria University is proud to contribute our distinctive and complementary expertise to NHIP to address the key challenges of health, prosperity and wellbeing in our region.


Northumbria’s research excellence is recognised nationally and internationally in areas germane to NHIP, such as prevention and management of chronic ill health, ageing in relation to housing and independent living, and mental health. Our researchers use population health data to identify local prevention needs and effectively target interventions to those experiencing greatest inequity. We conduct leading research in Artificial Intelligence and use data science to improve healthcare management. Some of our research projects cover early intervention for issues specifically relevant to Newcastle and the region, for example drug and alcohol abuse.


Northumbria University plays a key role in developing the future NHS workforce, producing graduates equipped to meet the changing needs of the healthcare system.  The majority of our students are recruited from the North East and remain in the region after qualification, supporting the pipeline of talent for which providers here in the North East have such pressing need. We actively encourage applications from a non-traditional background and many of our students are from low participation households. The newest data show that 100 per cent of our students graduating from health and social care programmes end up in skilled employment or further study, with 77 per cent employed by local NHS and social care providers.


Our approach to upskilling the region’s healthcare workforce is innovative and collaborative.  We were the first UK university to launch an 18-month programme that enables nursing associates to qualify as full registered nurses, and we recently celebrated the graduation of the one-hundredth student from this programme.


Health and Social Care is a key strategic theme of our civic universities’ agreement with Newcastle University, articulated through The Collaborative Newcastle Universities Agreement.   Under this agreement, and supporting the aims of NHIP and Newcastle University’s Heath Innovation Neighbourhood (HIN) project, we are developing our respective medical, dental, nursing, midwifery and allied health professional (NMAHP) trainees to be fit for the future of healthcare provision through embedding collaborative, interprofessional education across all programmes.


Northumbria University, and I personally, are committed to the development of NMAHP clinical academics. Working closely alongside NHIP partners Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NUTH) and Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (NTW), as well as trusts within the emerging Northern Care Alliance, we are committed to enabling these academic and professional specialists to develop and lead innovative, world-class care and treatment, to improve prevention, diagnosis, and treatment outcomes across our region’s healthcare settings. Alongside NHIP partner NUTH, we made our respective first joint professorial appointment in 2021, which involved our human resources teams overcoming obstacles to develop a joint contract seen as sector leading. This post is now firmly embedded in the NHIP academy, and pivotal in the development of other clinical academics.  The same joint contracting mechanism now supports our clinical research and education with NHIP partner CNTW, through an appointment at Associate Professor level.  Both strong researchers in their respective fields of expertise, these leading clinical academics also support and mentor colleagues across the partner organisations, inspire the next generation of nurses and midwives, and ensure that teaching is informed by the best available evidence.


An uncomfortable truth is that the North East has the lowest life expectancy in England – around three years less than the best performing regions. The North East also has higher rates (6.9%) of bad/very bad health compared with the rest of England, which is why reducing health inequalities is one of NHIP’s key priorities. Northumbria University is making a significant investment in a flagship centre to address the key drivers of health and social inequality. By conducting world-class research, generating evidence-based policies and training the next generation of health professionals, the University’s Centre for Health and Social Equity (CHASE) will provide solutions to complex problems and identify policy changes for the benefit of all. Due to open in 2027, the Centre aims to develop and harness the University’s research, education, and knowledge exchange expertise to help meet the health and social needs of multiple stakeholders and communities in the city, region and beyond.


NHIP brings partners together to improve citizen health through collaborative research, education and service innovation. Together we can more effectively prevent some of the most debilitating diseases and health conditions facing our population, and I look forward to participating in and seeing the positive impacts of our work together.

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