Role model: Nikita Kanani

Authors: Anne Gulland 

Publication date:  06 Jul 2017

Anne Gulland speaks to Nikita Kanani, chief clinical officer of Bexley Clinical Commissioning Group

Someone once told Nikita Kanani that her CV looked like crazy paving. A GP by training, she certainly does not have a defined career route. As an “averagely bright Asian girl,” medicine or any vocational science degree beckoned but her parents, both community pharmacists, tried to put her off. She was undeterred by their warnings about workload and stress and, after qualifying, was all set to pursue a career in surgery.

But her medical placement at Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust set her on a different path. At the time it was a “real community hospital,” Kanani says, where a young doctor could make an impact. Here, she got her first taste of management when Susan Acott, then deputy chief executive of the trust, spotted her knack for recognising problems and employed her as a service modernisation lead for a year.

Kanani says, “It was a very unusual thing for someone to do. She saw the value of trying to approach things a bit differently. It gave me such a great footing. Everything I’ve done has been experiential and that’s something I have really enjoyed.”

Kanani introduced rapid assessment teams into the trust in a bid to improve patient flow through the hospital. She also set up a hospital at home team in the community, more than 10 years before that became the norm.

This gave her a taste for working in the community, so GP training was the obvious choice. She had her two children during her training, but also took on other roles, including working with Bexley primary care trust and becoming a medical adviser to NHS Direct. This was initially a strategic role but as the advice line made the transition to NHS 111 she became involved in helping regional teams implement the change.

She also worked as a national quality lead for the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management, setting up a peer mentoring scheme for clinicians at board level.

As well as doing a few sessions a week at her original training practice, she is now chief clinical officer of Bexley Clinical Commissioning Group, a position she describes as a huge leap.

One of her big ideas as a manager is to promote the idea of flexible working, moving away from the notion that staff have to be seen to be at their desks during the working day.

“I have 71 members of staff who used to feel that flexible working and presenteeism was a problem. My team know that on some days I disappear between 3.30 pm and 6 or 7 pm to get the kids home and to bed but then I’ll be back. I work in a different pattern. I have to be careful when I send emails at night and I always put “do not reply out of hours.” Some people would rather leave work and then switch off,” she says.

Between herself and her husband—a GP partner in a large south London practice—they manage school pick ups and drop offs, but she is keen to dispel the notion that she is any kind of superwoman.

“It’s important to talk about working and having kids, and having to rely on other people and not being perfect,” she says.

While she may not consider herself a leader, her achievements were recognised this year when she was awarded an MBE. Kanani also tries to be a role model, especially as an Asian woman and the mother of a daughter. As for the future, she is unsure where her crazy paving path will lead.

“There is that slight insecurity about what’s next. As we move to sustainability and transformation plans my current role may not exist. I don’t know what the future looks like but I don’t mind that,” she says.

Nominated by Nishma Manek

“Nikki is an incredible GP leader, with a phenomenal list of achievements. But that’s not why I nominated her. It’s because she epitomises the responsibility we have to “pay it forward.” She’s constantly looking over her shoulder at young clinicians coming through the ranks and is really generous with her time to support them. I also admire the way she’s transparent about juggling her job with life outside of work, and the challenges that come with that.”

Nishma Manek is a GP trainee and national medical director’s fellow

Anne Gulland BMJ Careers

Cite this as BMJ Careers ; doi: