Manchester Academic Health Science Centre (MAHSC) is one of the five AHSCs in England designated by Department of Health in March 2009. The designation recognises excellence in research, innovation, education and patient services which combine to provide a strong capacity for translational medicine.
The successful application from Manchester came about from a marriage, albeit a polygamous one, between six NHS trusts and the University of Manchester. As with all good marriages it was based on strong commitment and a shared vision.
MAHSC is the largest AHSC in terms of the number of membership organisations and the only AHSC outside the south east. Sister AHSCs are located at Cambridge - Cambridge University Health Partners - and in London - Imperial AHSC, Kings Health Partners and UCL Partners - and all are tasked not only with serving their own local populations but also to act as international exemplars for UK plc.
The MAHSC NHS members cover acute, specialist and primary care and serve a population of more than 3 million, deliver services to over 2 million patients per year, provide 3,700 beds, and employ about 23,500 NHS staff between them. While there is an obvious focus on the University’s Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences, each of the other three faculties contribute very significantly to MAHSC’s activities.
Developing the partnership
The MAHSC partnership owes much to a forerunner structure, the Greater Manchester Research Alliance (established 2004), which built the foundations for common research governance and data sharing mechanisms. The Alliance led to a number of successes including the Research Passport, now rolled out nationally, the Manchester Cancer Research Centre, the Manchester Bioscience Research Centres, The Greater Manchester Collaboration for Applied Health Research and Care and Manchester: Integrating Medicine and Innovative Technology (MIMIT).
The initial impetus to convert this less formal arrangement to the MAHSC Federation came from the NHS. The chief executives, joined later by the University’s senior officers, met on a weekly basis for several months to discuss requirements, aided by a consultant, and concluding in MAHSC’s establishment under a Memorandum of Understanding. This committed initial funding for preparation of the designation bid which was led by the MAHSC director, then Professor Alan North, who was also dean of the Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences.
In that bid the MAHSC vision was clearly articulated “to be a leading global centre for the delivery of innovative applied health research and education into healthcare” and the outline strategy for delivery presented.
Establishing the infrastructure
MAHSC is a federation of its seven founding institutions, legally embodied in a company limited by guarantee. Post designation, the core operational team was appointed and a funding agreement completed to cover operational costs for five years (contrary to popular belief, there was no funding from the Department of Health upon designation and each AHSC is self funded by its members).
The strategy and structures for delivery were further refined:
• The MAHSC Board comprises an independent chair, Sir David Henshaw (who is also chair of NHS Northwest), the trust chief executives, the University president, three non-executives, the director (now Professor Chris Griffiths) plus the chief operating officer.
• Along with the latter two individuals, the executive team includes board-level representation from each member organisation plus nine academic section leads, who are responsible for developing the detailed strategy within MAHSC’s clinical, enabling and education sections (see figure 1).
• Further MAHSC groups including research directors, research operations, communications, and business development & industrial liaison, provide additional strategic input, underpin a common approach to delivery and ensure harmonised processes.
Living in changing times
Since MAHSC was first envisaged much has changed, not least the economic climate. There is a re-focusing in the NHS on a patient centred, clinician-led service coupled with a shift to care delivery in the home and the promotion of individual responsibility for health and well being. MAHSC is extremely well positioned to support this entire spectrum of activity and its raison d’être has been reinforced in the new landscape: accelerating the adoption of innovative research and technology into service delivery; reducing duplication of effort and investment; harmonising systems and providing a single point of contact to external partners.
As MAHSC approaches the first year anniversary of its launch (November 2009) key achievements include:
• Harmonised processes: common research contracts, costing templates, and GCP training for clinical research - the evolution of a single research office
• Common policies: pan-MAHSC staffing & appointments and grant funding management procedures
• Joint infrastructure: development of a MAHSC Clinical Trials Coordination Unit
• Successful Bids: OLS capability cluster and MRC Clinical Fellowships programme
These achievements, however, will only be validated if they result in patient benefit so evaluation must be a key component of MAHSC’s activities. For more information see please see www.mahsc.ac.uk
The MAHSC partners are: The University of Manchester (University), Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Central), Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust (Mental Health), NHS Salford (Salford Primary Care Trust) (Salford PCT), Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust (Salford), The Christie NHS Foundation Trust (Christie), University Hospital of South Manchester NHS Foundation Trust (South).
Dr Linda Magee is chief operating officer at MAHSC