Dr Nikita Kanani interview: The portfolio GP generation

Dr Nikita Kanani juggles part-time general practice, CCG work and other roles, and makes the time to take her children to and from school each day. Graham Clews finds out how she does it.

Websites like YouTube could be the future for general practice - and medicine more widely - if other doctors follow the lead of Dr Nikita Kanani.

A part-time GP, among many other things, Dr Kanani co-founded and now co-chairs The Network, an online community that connects about 3,000 doctors, health professionals and medical students who are all keen to improve the quality of healthcare.

The site is inviting video abstracts, via YouTube and no more than three minutes long, for its forthcoming quality improvement conference, and the best will be displayed at the event. It makes a change from A4 sheets of paper pinned to noticeboards.

Involvement

The Network appeals to younger, tech-savvy clinicians, but both its spirit of member involvement and its use of technology are passions for Dr Kanani.

'For a visual person like me, a video clip really works,' she says. 'Clinicians can look at a short clip and immediately get an idea of whether it is something they could work with.'

Networking and community are threads that run through Dr Kanani's wide-ranging career.

On top of her two sessions as a GP in south-east London, Dr Kanani sits on the governing body of her CCG and is quality improvement lead at the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management, an RCGP clinical commissioning champion and a council member at the National Association of Primary Care (NAPC). She does all this in just four days a week.

Her 'full-time job', she says, is mum to her two children, who she drops off and picks up from school each day. Despite her impressive portfolio career, she laughs that her ever-presence led one of her children to ask: 'Mummy, you don't work, do you?'

She makes up for time spent on the school run with evening meetings and late-night work.

She has had to work on her readiness to tell colleagues she won't be around because her child is speaking at assembly, or it's school sports day, but she has grown more comfortable with these time pressures because her colleagues trust in the quality of her work.

As a young GP, she aimed to emulate a number of impressive female role models, but the number of high-achieving women in the medical profession who accepted that family life would have to take second place to their career did not sit easily with her.

Dr Kanani is determined that her family will be central to her life. Without her tight-knit family community, including her GP husband, her parents and nanny, working life would be impossible, she believes.

Dr Kanani's broad range of posts enable her to act almost as a one-woman information-sharing community as she melds the disparate parts of her portfolio career.

She says she thrives on the variety, which stops her routine becoming stale and allows cross-pollination of ideas.

'I can look at a national policy and then see how it works in a clinical setting,' she says.

'I've lost count of the number of times I've done something for one job and thought either that we should be doing it somewhere else, or we're sort of doing it, so why don't we have a collaborative approach and try to implement it properly?'

For example, she helped to establish a development group for the clinical leads at her GP practice, which brought in training partners from the NAPC, and staff from the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management to help GPs unsure about the revalidation of their non-clinical work.

Community

The future could take Dr Kanani in any direction, but she is developing the community theme with her latest project.

She and her sister, an astrophysicist, have set up STEMMsisters, a forum for women and girls with an interest in science, technology, engineering, maths or medicine to act as mentors, with the aim of increasing female participation in careers often seen as male preserves.

Putting general practice increasingly at the heart of the community is another area she wants to focus on, and she wants to help provide the time and support for GPs and others working in primary care to develop and improve the services that practices provide.

She sees general practice sitting at the hub of its local community, with surgeries offering straightforward access to social care, voluntary services, sports clubs and more.

GPs must accept that they are not necessarily the best people to provide day-to-day care for someone with, say, anxiety, but they are ideally placed to knit together the services that can offer that patient support, Dr Kanani believes.

'The biggest challenge for general practice in the next few years is to provide the time and headroom to introduce this change,' she says.

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