Three new key leadership appointments have been made by the NHS in Birmingham and Solihull as it continues its work to transform health and care services for citizens, it was announced today.

Two new Associate Non-Executive Directors have been appointed to Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board (ICB), while it has also  confirmed its  new Vice-Chair.

Dr Onyinye Okonkwo, GP Senior Partner at the Wand Medical Centre in Highgate Birmingham has been appointed as Associate Non-Executive Director focused on driving clinical quality.  Meanwhile, Afzal Hussain, Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association, has been appointed as Associate Non-Executive Director leading on the ICB’s work on community engagement.

The Associate Non-Executive Director role is used in the NHS as 'step up' role aimed to attract potential Non-Executive Director candidates who do not yet have sufficient board-level experience but have the ability and potential to succeed. Both will continue in their current roles as well as joining the Board.

Current Non-Executive Director Paul Taylor has taken up the position of Vice-Chair of the Board following the substantive appointment of Patrick Vernon OBE to the Chair role.

The Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board (ICB) has oversight of the local health system, coordinating and planning in a way that improves population health and reduces inequalities. While Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care System brings together health and care partners to deliver joined up care, the ICB is the statutory organisation bringing the NHS together locally to improve population health and establish shared strategic priorities within the NHS, within the local area.

Dr Okonkwo is an accomplished health and care leader with a rich history of service in Birmingham and Solihull dating back to 2001. As well as working as GP Senior Partner at the Wand Medical Centre, she serves as GP member of the Birmingham and Solihull Integrated care Partnership, Chair of the system wide Birmingham Lewisham African Caribbean Health Inequalities Review Taskforce and Executive Member Birmingham Local Medical Committee.  She recently stepped down as the Clinical lead for the Birmingham and Solihull ICS General Practice Staff and Allies EDI network and one of the Clinical Leads for Medicines Management and Optimisation. Onyinye has trained in a number of locations including the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital, the University of Warwick and the Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Health. Dr Okonkwo is also heavily involved in the training and assessment of GPs through the Royal College of General Practitioners as well as Undergraduate medical students for University of Birmingham and Aston University Birmingham.

Afzal Hussain is Chief Officer of Witton Lodge Community Association, a dynamic social enterprise and community anchor supporting diverse communities across north Birmingham. With over 25 years’ experience in urban and community regeneration across the West Midlands, he has worked with multi-stakeholder partnerships to transform neighbourhoods and communities – supporting thousands of residents and vulnerable groups to access housing, health, employment, skills, and enterprise support services. During the pandemic, he convened the Erdington (Covid-19) Taskforce, and the North Birmingham Economic Recovery Board which continues to create and connect opportunities to communities in some of the city’s most challenging neighbourhoods. Afzal is an active member of several Boards in Birmingham and the West Midlands, providing insight and expertise in community-led approaches that tackle deep-seated challenges and deliver change that sticks. He remains passionate about nurturing talent and provides coaching to leaders in the voluntary and community sectors.  Afzal also serves as Deputy Lieutenant in the West Midlands Lieutenancy.

Paul Taylor is a retired NHS finance director and has been a Non-Executive at the ICB since March 2022. In his last role, Paul worked for 20 years as a management consultant to the NHS after 11 years working substantively in the NHS at director level. He is a very experienced public sector finance professional who has held senior positions in a number of different organisations, both in primary and secondary care and the intermediate and national tiers. He offers a breadth of skills in financial, planning, organisational and general management. Paul is a former Chair of the West Midlands branch of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA), the professional body for finance staff in healthcare. He is also a member of the national Finance Management and Research Sub-committee and winner of the national Outstanding Contribution to HFMA award in 2006.

Reacting to the announcement, Patrick Vernon OBE, Chair of the Birmingham and Solihull Integrated Care Board said:

“It’s fantastic to be able to welcome Onyi and Afzal to the Board. They are both hugely respected in their fields and are well known in the community for their expertise and dedication. Onyi will add another valuable clinical voice to our board and Afzal will provide added leadership to our work to better engage with the people we serve.

“I’m delighted that Paul has agreed to take up the Vice-Chair role and look forward to continuing our work together. As well as his role as Vice-Chair, Paul will continue to put his extensive finance skills to use as Chair of our finance and performance committee.”

Onyi said:

“I’m delighted to be joining colleagues on the board and to be strengthening the clinical and primary care voice in our system. As a GP in one of the most diverse and deprived parts of the city, I know first-hand the challenges that patients and clinicians are seeing and hope to use this as a valuable opportunity to work together to deliver improvements.”

Afzal said:

From my own work in Birmingham and the wider region I know how important it is that we properly engage with our local communities. Critically, we must listen to what people are telling us and demonstrate that we are acting upon their views when it comes to making decisions about health and care services. This will enable us to both address challenges but also harness the undoubted skills, knowledge and expertise that exists in our many communities to transform engagement, access and services.. I’m excited to work with the team and to further developing our approach to tackling health inequalities and supporting economic development.”

Paul said:

“Over the next period we will have the triple challenge of delivering transformation, continuing to improve performance and the requirement to live within our means. I’m pleased to be able to support Patrick as Vice-Chair as we work together, as a health and care system, to respond to these challenges and deliver the vision set out in our Inception Framework.”