Image of Professor Sarah O'Brien
Professor Sarah O’Brien

An NHS leader who is passionate about raising ambitions and equal opportunities for young people to pursue a career in healthcare has been appointed an Honorary Professor for Edge Hill University. 

Professor Sarah O’Brien, leader of St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), has been appointed as an Honorary Professor for the University’s new Medical School in recognition of her expertise and the mutual values she shares with Edge Hill to improve people’s life chances. 

Sarah has been central to driving forward the North West’s health and social care strategy for 25 years, having acted in the dual role as Chief Accountable Officer of St Helens CCG and Executive Director of People’s Services at St Helens Council since 2018.  

Prior to this, Sarah was Deputy Director of Nursing and Quality at Whiston Hospital before joining St Helens CCG in 2014 as Chief Nurse. A former diabetes nurse consultant, her clinical expertise rapidly earned her a national reputation for her work and research, at which point she also secured her PGCert Teaching and Learning in Clinical Practice at Edge Hill.   

Sarah actively works to raise the aspirations of young people to pursue a career in healthcare and has been a strong supporter of Edge Hill’s Medical School since its launch in 2019. 

She said: “It is a real honour to receive this acknowledgement from Edge Hill in recognition of the collaborative relationship we have built as partners with mutual values. When I was first approached by the University to support the Medical School bid, it opened a fantastic opportunity for both St Helens and Edge Hill to join up our agendas to help improve life chances and aspirations for young people in the North West. 

“It’s crucial that we are recruiting doctors who come from a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences, to ensure that we are giving young people in our communities a fair chance to achieve their full potential. We need a diverse workforce that reflects the full spectrum of our society, who patients can relate to, and institutions like the Medical School will be instrumental in helping us to achieve this.” 

As of next year, Sarah will be taking up a new role as Executive Director of Strategy and System Development at Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership. She hopes that this new position will open more opportunities for develop research collaborations with the Medical School.  

Sarah added: “In my new role, I will be focusing on tackling health inequalities in Cheshire and Merseyside and I’m looking forward to exploring how we can work together with Edge Hill to improve life chances and health equality across the region.” 

Clare Austin, Director of Medical Education at Edge Hill, said: “Sarah has been a trusted partner and advocate of the Medical School since its inception and her passion for equality aligns with our aim to widen participation for young people, whose backgrounds might otherwise limit their life chances, the opportunity to study medicine. 

“Sarah’s appointment recognises her significant contribution to research and we hope will create more opportunities to exchange knowledge and collaborate on the strategic development of our teaching and research, as we strive to embed the Medical School in local communities.” 

Edge Hill’s Medical School is one of only three new freestanding medicine schools in the country and the only one in the North West of England.  To find out more about the Medical School and the programmes on, click here.