As NHS England’s director of primary care at a time when general practice is undergoing major changes through GPs forming new networks, Dr Nikita Kanani has a lot on her plate.
Dr Kanani is fronting major changes, brought in from July, that have seen the vast majority of practices group together in local areas to deliver services as a whole and take on shared responsibility for patients.
Not only that, the former chief clinical officer of NHS Bexley CCG is the first woman to occupy the most senior primary care role at NHS England – having taken over from her predecessor Dr Arvind Madan, who had to leave the post for posting anonymous comments on PulseToday around a year ago.
Successes so far have included helping to secure £4.5bn of funding for primary and community care, out of the overall £20.5bn uplift for the NHS by 2023/24 that is supporting the long-term plan.
She also fiercely negotiated a five-year contract for the profession, alongside the BMA – representing some of the biggest changes since 2004, including a commitment for 22,000 new non-GP staff.
Despite her new title and a greater influence on GP policies, Dr Kanani has not lost sight of the day-to-day pressures GPs face as she still practises part-time in her surgery in Bexley, Kent.
Networks may not have been popular among all practices. GPs have had to grapple with the new structures and funding arrangements in just a few months between them being announced in January and launched in July.
But Dr Kanani is keen to stress she is here to help iron out challenges: ‘I am looking forward to supporting practices as they move forward with their journeys to become primary care networks. We know it’s early days yet, and as a national team we are working closely with our colleagues in the BMA, RCGP and further afield to support practices and help them thrive.’
A bold start – but another challenge is on the horizon: a review of the requirement for seven-day GP access, which has been a central Government policy for years but contentious among GPs. Her leadership of the review could prove to be the litmus test.
Why influential: Empowered female leader wanting to make a difference for GPs
What others say: ‘Caring, genuine, inspirational, energetic, honest’
Random fact: Makes a great gulab jamun cake