Community partners launch Leicester children's health partnership

Leicester City, Leicester's Hospitals and University of Leicester commit to long-term partnership to make the next generation of children the region's healthiest.

The future of children’s health in Leicestershire is to be safeguarded for generations to come through the collaboration of some of Leicester’s key community stakeholders.

Leicester City Football Club, Leicester’s Hospitals and the University of Leicester have committed to working together to form the Leicester Children’s Health Partnership, with a collective vision to support local children in becoming the healthiest generation to ever grow up in Leicestershire and Rutland.

Elements of the partnership were introduced on Wednesday to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, whose visit to Leicester included an opportunity to hear about legacy projects following the death of Leicester City Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Combining individual expertise with a shared passion to improve lives in our community, the Partnership’s stakeholders will work to provide world-class, age-appropriate clinical care; better understand the genetic and lifestyle issues that affect our children; and support the health and happiness of young people as they grow into adulthood.

The first step in this long-term vision can now be confirmed with the appointment of Professor Elaine Boyle as the Leicester City Football Club Professor in Child Health, in partnership with University of Leicester, Leicester’s Hospitals and Leicester City Football Club.

The post and its initial research efforts are funded through a £1M gift by Leicester City Football Club and its late Chairman and is the first Professorship to be funded by a football club. This new role will focus on how to reach into the community and bridge the discovery and outreach activity at the University with the clinical work at Leicester’s Hospitals.

Professor Elaine Boyle, who is also an honorary consultant neonatologist at Leicester’s Hospitals and speciality lead for children’s research at the NIHR Clinical Research Network East Midlands, said: “I am honoured and delighted to take up the post of Leicester City Football Club Professor in Child Health. The generosity of the club and Mr Srivaddhanaprabha will have direct benefits for babies, children and families in Leicester, and the research we conduct here has the potential to address child health problems globally.”

Professor Paul Boyle, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leicester said: “We are delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Elaine Boyle as the Leicester City Football Club Professor in Child Health. The football club, in partnership with Leicester’s Hospitals and the University of Leicester, has made a clear commitment to improve the health of children in our city and county. This unique collaboration provides further evidence of the football club’s commitment to our community.”

Professor Philip Baker, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Life Sciences and Dean of Medicine at the University of Leicester, said: “In Professor Elaine Boyle, we have an appointee who has a powerful track record of impact on clinical care and high calibre research. Her academic standing is evidenced by large numbers of funding awards and scientific publications, particularly pertaining to the effects of premature delivery on childhood and long-term outcomes.”

Leicester’s Hospitals’ long-term objective of building a specialist children’s hospital in Leicester – a cause to which Khun Vichai donated £2M in 2016 – will be among the Partnership’s long-term goals.

In the shorter-term, studies undertaken under Professor Elaine Boyle’s leadership will inform Partnership-led community outreach projects designed to tackle some alarming regional trends in children’s health.

Independent research suggests that two in five children in Leicester are born into poverty – a plight currently affecting more than 34,000 young people in the city. Infant mortality rates in Leicester are 40 per cent higher than the national average.

Childhood obesity is also on the rise in Leicester, bringing with it greater risk of diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure later in life.

Ian Sudamore, Clinical Director of Women’s and Children’s Services at Leicester’s Hospitals, said: “Leicester’s Hospitals is delighted to be part of the newly-formed Leicester Children’s Health Partnership. We already have a strong track record of delivering children’s research here in Leicester. Through the leadership of Professor Boyle we will continue to develop our research portfolio and use the evidence we uncover to further improve the prevention, management and treatment of our youngest patients for years to come.

“This is an important step in the long-term vision for children’s health care in Leicester, which includes the move of East Midlands Congenital Heart Services to the Leicester Royal Infirmary site as the first part of the development of a dedicated children’s hospital.”

The Leicester Children’s Health Partnership will form a key part of Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s legacy in the Leicester community. As a founder stakeholder in the Partnership, Leicester City Football Club will be a key driver of public engagement in the Partnership’s on-going projects, utilising the profile of the Club, the influence of its players and the power of football to reach out to young people and their families in the Leicester community to affect tangible change.

Leicester City Chief Executive Susan Whelan said: “We intend to make the Leicester Children’s Health Partnership part of a lasting legacy left by Khun Vichai to his adopted home town. Leicester meant so much to Khun Vichai personally and we have seen from recent events what Khun Vichai meant to the people of Leicester. This Partnership provides an opportunity to ensure that special relationship continues to improve lives in this city for generations to come.

“Khun Vichai planted the seeds for this with his two biggest single donations to the Leicester community and it is our responsibility as custodians of that legacy to nurture its growth.”

With the Leicester City Football Club Professor in Child Health now in place, the Partnership’s stakeholders will meet in early 2019 to identify immediate areas for intervention, while refining the Partnership’s medium and long-term plans, including future fundraising efforts, which will be supported by the Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Foundation and Leicester Hospitals Charity.