Memories of HSMC

These memories tell the individual stories/recolections behind HSMC's history across the five decades and provide a fascinating account of people's relationship with HSMC and what it meant - and means - to them.

I first came to HSMC just over 20 years ago when I was working at Slough Primary Care Trust, when Mike Attwood, our new Chief Exec , arranged for our exec team to come to Birmingham for a team workshop with Prof Chris Ham and colleagues. Our focus as I recall it was the importance of place-based working and we met in Priorsfield , next to HSMC and stayed in what was then the rather austere venue that was Lucas House. Since then we have seen place and system working come to the fore and in some notable cases with a genuine focus on community engagement and the central role of integrated community based primary health and social care. Since that workshop I have left the NHS and in 2012 I relocated to Birmingham. Thinking of who I knew in Birmingham I remembered Martin Powell , who was completing his PhD at Queen Mary College , Health and Healthcare Research Group when I began mine. He completed his, mine on community care for older people and the health and social care interface never got completed as I left to join first the voluntary sector and then the NHS. Martin went onto become Professor Martin Powell , a widely published academic. It was great to re-connect and Martin kindly invited me to the HSMC summer BBQ in 2012, by which time I was also working for a local hospice. At that BBQ I met Deborah Davidson amongst others and through their support I have worked on some really interesting projects around cancer, practical wisdom, primary healthcare in Wales, integrated care in Sandwell to name a few. From 2013, I have been involved in some shape or form with the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Programme and am now proud to be one of the Deputy Programme Directors. Despite the many changes in the last 20 years and having been in a position to see them more closely in the last 10 years, it appears to me that HSMC has remained true to its calling to provide sound research and evaluation , teaching and leadership development with the underpinning aim of enabling more effective, joined up and personalised care. 

Catherine Weir, current member of staff

I was fortunate enough to be at HSMC as both a student and member of staff. Undertaking the MSc in Primary Heath Care Policy and Management in the late 90s was a pivotal moment in my professional development and career. It provided an excellent theoretical grounding to what I had learnt and experienced as a nurse and provided me with a solid foundation for a lifelong career in primary care management, policy development and evaluation. I had many light bulb moments in the Southfield Room and made some life long friends. As a Senior Fellow from 2005-2009 (and latterly Co-Director with Jon Glasby) I was able to continue my development and learning, drawing on the expertise of staff and students. I enjoyed my time immensely contributing to the the research, teaching and consultancy that HSMC is well respected for and look back with very fond memories of that time. Not to mention the lovely summers in the Park House gardens and Janet's kitchen stories!

Helen Parker, Alumni 1999-2001 and member of staff 2005-2009

I made some lifelong friends on my leadership for healthcare improvement MSc course. I met people from around the world, learnt about myself, and critically, informed my own strategy for leadership for the future. I do recall very clearly sitting in the HSMC gardens with my fellow students in the sunshine and feeling very content. Amusingly, the only very funny memory I recall probably shouldn't be committed to the internet, as it involved a trust and persuasion exercise with my good friend (now) Liz which defined our relationship from then onwards. Since she's terribly senior now it's not politic to repeat it, but we still laugh about it to date :) What a fantastic educational institution. I'm so happy to have been part of it, and proud to carry my master's degree.

Stephen Hildrew, Alumni 2014-2016

Really delighted to know about 50th anniversary of Health Services Management Center (HSMC). I have fantastic memories of that time which I spent in HSMC, Park House from 1990-91 as Masters student for Health Management for Developing Countries. Inter-Authority Comparisons Consultancy (IACC), NHS UK was also housed in HSMC, where I was researcher in Performance Indicators after completing my Master's degree course. Dr. Mike Harley was my Supervisor, cheerful and helping personality. At that time Dr. Peter Spurgeon with his cool personality and loving style was our idea. He was Head of HSMC. Dr. Don K White was main attraction for all of us. I also remember Penny Mullen walking through the corridors of HEMC with her smart dog. I had incredibly amazing time and everyone helped me to reach at this status in my career. HSMC is very close to our heart and we can not forget it and its association. Heartiest Congratulations HSMC

Dr. Sohail Saqlain President Birmingham Alumni Association of Pakistan (BAAP) Lahore, Pakistan 1990-91 

I have the most amazing memories from Park House and HSMC. I began my PhD at HSMC back in 2015 and I am now lucky enough to work here as a senior fellow. It is not just the physical environment at Park House that is beautiful, it really is a place where everyone feels equally valid - this goes a long way in terms of personal feelings about work. I have had such a great experience with many colleagues in HSMC and everyone is willing to help and support where they can. Wherever my career takes me, Park House and HSMC will always have a special place in my heart.

Dr Sophie King-Hill, current member of staff

The Healthcare Policy and Management Masters that I completed at Birmingham has developed supported my career development over the years. I’ve worked as a clinical Physiotherapist and within several leadership roles, regional capacity management and currently a improvement, innovation and effectiveness role. The academic learning has supported my report writing skills, critical analysis as well as building my theoretical knowledge. I have fond memories of HSMC and all the people I met while studying there. 

Sally Longley, Alumni 2009-2013  

Congratulations on your 50th Anniversary, HSMC!! While conducting my PhD fieldwork in 2006, although I was a PhD student at London School of Economics and Political Science, HSMC (under the Directorship of Prof. Chris Ham) welcomed me as a visiting student with open arms. I was particularly interested in hospital reforms happening in the West Midlands at that time. Thanks to great hospitality and facilities, I was able to have HSMC / Harborne as my research base for one year (part of which was spent in Stockholm), made great friends and had great interactions with researchers from all over the world! Wishing you and all your team members another 50 years of great success and happy moments together! 

Nao Kodate ​Associate Professor in Social Policy & Social Robotics / Director of Research UCD School of Social Policy, Social Work and Social Justice Director, UCD Centre for Japanese Studies / Lárionad Léinn na Seapáine UCD University College Dublin / Coláiste na hOllscoile, Baile Átha Cliath

Nao Kodate, visiting student 2006

I have been at Park House for 5 years and it is like coming home every time I walk down the drive! I never tire of working there - such a beautiful building and fantastic interesting garden, full of wildlife from foxes to buzzards to muntjac! I have been transferred to Muirhead Tower and now work at Park House once a week, shedding a tear now and again as I miss it so much! HSMC is a wonderful environment to work in, the people are caring, supportive and friendly and at times it really has been like family. Happy Birthday to you HSMC - here's to 50 more years! 

Carla Cureton, current member of staff

As an NHS graduate management trainee between 2001 and 2003, I think my first experience of HSMC was to be awestruck by the building and the campus. That first week at HSMC was in the Summer and, in addition to learning some of the basics of health policy and practice from some very experienced people, we were also treated to a BBQ in the garden (photo) and discover what a gem of a place it is. I also remember very clearly what a friendly and supportive place HSMC has been to me. It doesn't matter what role anyone played, everyone wanted the best for you. I am very grateful to the people who helped me to learn, to develop and looked after me. Whether it was in the kitchen, the library or the classrooms, it was a whole team effort. And I still draw on the learning that came from HSMC. With my colleagues, we will often reflect and reminisce on learning from the people that literally wrote the books. From the dynamic Chief Executives who gave their time to give us an insight into our future careers. Who helped us develop our skills to be able to learn from our own experience, from colleagues' experiences or from other health systems or industries. I have returned to HSMC often. I had no hesitation in staying on to complete my Masters. I was grateful to work for HSMC briefly and help the University understand what it could offer to changing health and care systems. And finally, with good friends in Birmingham, I often pass by the campus and HSMC and it feels akin to a pilgrimage. My sincere thanks and congratulations to everyone on this auspicious anniversary. 

Matthew Bazeley-Bell, Alumni 2001-2004 and member of staff (briefly in 2016!)

I joined HSMC in 2000; I came close to it a couple of years before when an opportunity arose, but my PhD supervisors (rightly) advised me to finish my thesis first. The post I applied for was an unusual one, jointly funded by Dorset Health Authority, with a particular focus on NHS quality improvement. Looking back at HSMC's 40th anniversary, I wrote the following: "No sooner had I arrived than my line manager, Chris Ham, was seconded to the Department of Health as director of the Strategy Unit, working with Ministers on the reform of the NHS. So all my meetings with him were at Richmond House, with the buzz of politics and the chimes of Big Ben in the background. I could not have imagined a more direct route from research into policy - sometimes scarily so! As in: 'I've just shown your report to Alan Milburn'..." Still scary, thinking back. Paths continue to cross with people I met at HSMC, including Judith Smith, Glenn Robert, Kieran Walshe, and Stirling Bryan - who I discovered had a part-time role in my current University, Aberdeen. I guess all of us share a commitment to working at the interface between acadaemia and the NHS, wanting to do good research - but only if it makes a difference to patients and healthcare staff. 

Louise Locock, ex-member of staff 2000-2002

I was recruited by James Raftery in 1998 to be part of the Health Economics Facility that was housed by HSMC. It was a "coming home" for me as I grew up in Birmingham, and was an opportunity for me to ensure that my two sons became Aston Villa fans! Mission accomplished! The opportunity to work with colleagues at HSMC was a true pleasure. We received such strong support as we launched a new MSc programme in Health Economics & Health Policy, building on the established MSc modules already in place. And I will always remain grateful to Chris Ham for his mentorship and guidance - "rigour and relevance" has become a signature of my work throughout my career and is something Chris lived and breathed. Happy 50th birthday!

Stirling Bryan, ex-member of staff 1998 - 2004

I did an M. Sc. in Primary Healthcare and Management in the mid/late 1990s. This was lead by two inspiring women Penelope Mullen and Judith Smith. Judith was my personal tutor for the dissertation during which I was diagnosed with breast cancer, without her encouragement and pastoral care I would not have completed the course. Gaining this Masters degree was the spring board for my future career where I went on to become the first non-medically or non-clinically qualified GP Dean (from 2009 to my retirement in 2013) at was then the Postgraduate Department of Medical Education in Oxford (later part of Health Education England) and to be awarded Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of General Practice. Thank you Penny and Judith!

Glynis Buckle, student 1997-1999 

The HSMC Summer barbecue in 2007 I think. It was a lovely sunny evening, there was food and drink (plenty of both!) served on the terrace and Edward Peck, then director of HSMC organised a game of rounders on the field beyond the pond. People could invite their families and my husband and three children came along and had a great time! My proudest moment is when I worked as a librarian in HSMC library between 2006 and 2011, I helped out with library skills training for the trainees on the NHS graduate scheme when they were on their residential. It was exhausting delivering 9 hours of training but it was rewarding.

Ann Evans, current member of staff 

I started my academic career at HSMC and can't think of a better place to have done this. As a PhD student I was welcomed by senior colleagues and was delighted to go on to work alongside some fantastic people. I learned heaps from great academic colleagues and students , made life long friends and had a lot of fun along the way. The interdisciplinary nature of the academic study was often challenging but a really useful foundation for my work today. Importantly these discussions were never divorced from the real life experiences of managers and services users. I have very fond memories of summer parties in the gardens and discussions around the coffee machine. Although I left nearly 10 ten years ago coming back to HSMC still feels like coming home.

Helen Dickinson, Phd Student 2005-2010, ex-member of staff 2006-2013

HSMC has been a good friend to me throughout my life-both when I studied there for my Masters degree which was my first ever academic experience and very uplifting) and when I returned as a staff member. My colleagues in room 22 (Iestyn Williams, Helen Dickinson, Suzanne Robinson initially) took pity on me as a rookie and gave me their time, shared their expertise and were consistently kind as well as funny! I have never worked anywhere else with so many genuinely lovely, interesting, challenging yet gentle individuals and I owe them all so much. There are too many to name! My greatest privilege was to have the time, support and encouragement to explore why my profession-nursing- was struggling to consistently provide good care to patients, given that this is the only reason people become a nurse (certainly not for the pay or glamorous working conditions!) By exploring the concept of Emotional Labour as a fundamental requirement but little known facet of care, I was able to work with the NHS to apply the research in practice, delivered a Tedex talk; developed Improvement Labs with my colleague Alistair Hewison and edited a book enlisting the talents of many contributors. I never imagined I could achieve any of this and HSMC deserves all the credit. Thankyou one and all. 

Yvonne Sawbridge, Student 2002, ex-member of staff 2011-2018

I remember holding HfMA Research Committee meetings at HSMC - must have been every 2 months in the 80s/90s. Peter Cole and I wrote the booklet "Home Thoughts From Abroad" as part of that Committee.

Paul Taylor, HfMA Member - used HSMC because Tony Cooke was a member 

My memories are of Wast Hills House in and around the early 1970’s. Being a former home of the Cadbury family there were some rooms in which we were requested to desist from drinking and the bar was an honour bar which apparently was never short changed Attended three times on courses for Area Dental Officers….one of the new posts of the 1974 NHS reorganisation. “Mac”was the Centre Manager. On my third visit, via the pillow in my room, he returned to me the pyjamas I had left on the previous visit. I had not even missed them, but this was not due to any shenanigans, honest!

Roger Bettles, Student, three visits over about four years either side of 1974

I remember first walking into Park House as a senior lecturer and automatically hushing my voice out of a sense of reverence for the place. That respect for the institution, its history and its emerging future never left me.

Hesham Abdalla, ex-member of staff 2015 to 2017

I started working for HSMC nearly 19 years ago - on the 1st July 2003 - having worked with Professor Edward Peck (HSMC's then Director) at Kings College London. I remember arriving at Park House and loving the gardens and greenery, which was so different from the busy and noisy roundabout at Waterloo. But 'proper' academic life was a culture shock for me! At King's I was part of a (maverick) department that worked helping NHS and Social Care organisations change, and although I co-delivered a teaching programme on Leadership in healthcare, I had little understanding of universities structures and process. HSMC seemed very proper! But HSMC has never been a 'traditional' department and bringing in people who had worked in the field as Senior Fellows (my role), was a great way to strengthen the department's applied research approach. I really enjoyed the mix of work - research and evaluations, teaching and consultancy - as it enabled me to use my experiences in each of these domains to enhance the others. Three things stand out for me that have been sustained throughout this time: fabulous, supportive colleagues to work with; meeting and working alongside a range of brilliant healthcare professionals and managers; and having the privilege of teaching such an interesting group of international and home students - from whom I learned such a lot. Thank you and happy 50th Birthday HSMC!

Deborah Davidson, Senior Fellow, Organisational Development & Leadership

My time at HSMC as Library and Information Services Manager (1999 - 2002) coincided with what might be described as the start of the digital revolution. Publishers were beginning to roll out electronic content which sat alongside paper-based versions and we were starting to use the internet to deliver proactive, targeted information services. The opportunity of taking a hybrid approach to information provision, mixing the traditional with the digital, sat well in supporting a new user group. In the year that I joined, HSMC had been awarded the contract, jointly with De Montfort University, to provide the education provision for the NHS Management Trainee Scheme. Trainees were spread across the country and were only in Birmingham occasionally. It was important to engage with the Trainees to ensure that HSMC's Library and Information team was best able to meet their needs and to determine how they were engaging with us, both traditionally and virtually from their main base. To that end, we undertook a survey of all trainees early in 2002. I was very pleased to receive the support from John Clark, the then HSMC Director, to present the findings of the survey by delivering a paper "Going Virtual is it a Reality?" at a European Conference for Health Librarians and Information Professionals in Cologne in September 2002. It was a great experience and I remain grateful for the support HSMC provided to me in developing my own career.

Steve Rose, ex-member of staff (1999 - 2002)

Beautiful building and a demanding course but wonderful colleagues and teachers including Matt. Best memories of studying Msc

Kiranjeet Kaur, Student 2020-2021

HSMC was my first 'proper job' and has always felt like a family to me. Everywhere I go in the UK, I still bump into members of that family. One of the highlights was always the summer BBQ on the lawn, with a bouncy castle and with Iestyn in charge of 'fun' (i.e. games). It could sometimes get quite competitive - one year I remember catching my 5-year-old daughter out twice in successive balls in the family cricket. As the second one came to me, I could see I was doing the wrong thing as a parent, yet somehow couldn't quite stop myself. She's since gone on to be a really good cricketer so hopefully no permanent harm was done...

Jon Glasby, current member of staff

I have lots of very happy memories of working and studying at HSMC and during my time at the Centre, I had the good fortune to be part of many interesting and important research projects and evaluations. It's the teaching and supervisory activities that stick in my mind the most though and particularly the 1:1 work mentoring and supervising some amazingly talented women who were undertaking the Public Health training programme and came to HSMC for one of their placements as well as one young woman who came to HSMC under a Knowledge Transfer Partnership Programme - watching people grow in confidence and develop new skills, knowledge and understanding has been an absolute privilege and playing some small part in their development is one of my proudest career achievements. 

Hilary Isla Brown, Alumni (2008-2010) and ex-member of staff (2008-2020)

There are too many memories to mention but they include summer parties for staff and their families in the garden and sitting on the terrace for lunch on sunny days. On the academic side our closer collaboration with colleagues across the University was a highlight as was the recruitment and development of rising stars: Judith Smith, Kieran Walshe, Jon Glasby, Nicola Walsh, Stirling Bryan among others. The growing international focus reaped many rewards for teaching and research including the curation of networks of health policy and management experts. All of the above helped establish HSMC as a trusted source of evidence based advice for NHS leaders and health policy makers in government and commentary in the media. 

Chris Ham, 1992-2010 with secondment to government from 2000-2004

In 2019 I joined HSMC as Professor and Deputy Director. It was something of a 'homecoming' given that two decades earlier I had been a student on the MSc in Healthcare Policy and Management. Over the intervening years I had visited Park House many times, for events and research meetings. I even posted a memory for the 40th Birthday. But now, I am a 'proper' member of staff. An insider! That said, it still feels odd sometimes to think of myself as a member of staff and not a student. I still feel the need to knock on people's doors like I am a student and I feel there are rooms and locations that are 'out of bounds'. It turns out most of these are used for storing a fantastic collection of archived materials, policy documents and former students' work (including my own dissertation). Some things have not changed. Park House continues to have a homely feel and colleagues are supportive and welcoming. How strange, then, that over the last two years of the pandemic, I have been detached from the people and the place that is now my academic home. But even during this time, the cultural fabric of HSMC moved online. We found ways to interacting, have fun (the virtual Christmas party was great) and to support one another through this challanging time. All of this reaffirmed what I already knew, that HSMC is a very special community of researchers, teachers and professional service colleagues all committed to making a positive difference in how we organise, manage and deliver care. 

Justin Waring, alumni (1998-99) and  current member staff

HSMC is a place full of character - the building and the people! It is so hard to pick out any one special memory. My whole time as a Senior Fellow there was special. Academic and support staff colleagues really made me feel that my experience as a former NHS Chief Executive was welcomed and valued, and was making a useful contribution. In turn, their support enabled me to pick up the threads of my first academic career and get researching, evaluating, publishing and teaching again. I learnt so much. "Bridging the gap between research and practice" could not be a better description of my experience of HSMC. Lovely as Park House was, and is, it was remarkable how much time I spent working elsewhere. No way could it be described as an Ivory Tower. My various roles took me to all corners of the country, and the NHS - a testament to the reach of HSMC. Being a locality tutor for the NHS Management Training Scheme was just one example of this, and I am often reminded of this part of the HSMC role when former trainees pop up on the television news doing some of the most difficult jobs that there are in the NHS. I marvel at their talent and determination, especially during these difficult times. Thank you HSMC, and all my colleagues. And long may you continue to support, develop and believe in the NHS. 

Juliet Woodin, Member of staff 2002 - 2010 

I have been in or around HSMC since around 2010 in one form or another. During that time, I have had the privilege of working with lots of interesting people, on some interesting projects, and seeing various parts of the NHS that I would not have otherwise seen, so that is very valuable to me.

On a personal note, one memory I have is that unbeknown to me at the time, my (now departed) father was part of a group of service users who were contributing to a piece of evaluation that was being led by HSMC; when people like Robin Miller and Jo Ellins made the connections between Gulati 'senior' and Gulati 'junior', and told me stories of his humour and warmth, it was so touching. Hearing about some of his stories and jokes that were rather familiar (!), but also learning about a side to him that I didn't always see - and hearing the warmth in the voices of Robin and Jo as they spoke of him - really brought home to me the very special value of the work that we do, and the human connections that we make. The memory stays with me, and helps keep me grounded when working with patients and service users.

Steve Gulati, Staff member

I have been at HSMC since 2012, so it's my 10 year anniversary this spring. Prior to coming here I'd never worked in a shared office as an academic, but I've learned a lot from my co-inhabitants of room 22: Iestyn's great manner with the students, Yvonne Sawbridge's telephone diplomacy, Patrick's excellent espressos. I could go on! 

My favourite thing about HSMC is working in such a green environment. The gardens are wonderful and make the house feel cocooned by nature. I love the manicured flower beds, which are kept up so well by the garden team, but also the tumble down walls and ivy covered passageways that give the place a slightly mysterious air. 

A real highlight in my first few years at Park House was the annual summer barbeque for friends and family. One year my husband Blake hit a rounders ball very hard into the face of one of Jon Glasby's children. Fortunately everyone took it in good heart and since then Blake has never aimed projectiles at any HSMC Director or family member. 

Catherine Needham, Member of staff, 2012-current  

The most amazing place to study, both the atmosphere and inspirational tutors made my time here memorable. It was an absolute privilege to be a student here, I felt part of something very special.

Claire Powell, Alumni 2016-2018

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