Take 5 with Natasha Curran

Five questions with Dr Natasha Curran, one of King’s Health Partners new Joint Directors of Clinical Strategy. Hear about how Natasha will lead on supporting clinicians and academics in our acute and mental health Clinical Academic Groups to improve patient and population outcomes.

Tell us about yourself

Natasha Curran smallMy clinical background is in anaesthesia and pain medicine and I still treat patients who have long-term pain and other medical or surgical conditions. Pain medicine fascinates me because of the interplay of biopsychosocial factors, factors which affect us all, and yet are unique in each individual.

In June 2018, I became Medical Director of the Health Innovation Network (HIN), south London’s Academic Health Science Network (AHSN). I’ve been very much welcomed into south London and have been part of a diverse team which delivers a broad range of clinical and digital programmes across south east and south west London geographies, plus co-ordinates some national programmes.

Locally, I work with GPs and pharmacists to improve system-wide safe opioid prescribing. I have also been a member of a National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidance committee, NHS England’s Clinical Reference Group for Specialised Pain and Wandsworth’s Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) Governing Body.

On a personal note, I was born British in Zambia, schooled in a multi-ethnic population, and was an immigrant to Britain aged eight. This upbringing, and recollecting my Zambian classmates, has driven quite a few of my decisions, including in 2007 taking part in an NHS leadership programme explicitly designed to increase ethnic diversity at senior levels of the NHS. The programme intentionally recruited a white minority group to invert power structures and accelerate experiential learning and understanding.

What does your new role with King’s Health Partners involve?

My role as a Joint Director of Clinical Strategy is to continue the development of King’s Health Partners tripartite mission through the Clinical Academic Groups (CAGs). I will be continuing to develop a culture of value and outcomes across the CAGs and ensuring a focus on clinical innovation and pathway redesign across the full cycle of care. I’ll be working with several CAGs on outcomes scorecards across a range of patient pathways. I am aware I arrive at a business-critical time for many CAGs, where the advancement of integrated care models, alliance partnerships, and changes in specialised services commissioning and the research and education landscape creates a highly complex and busy environment. It is important that our Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) can support CAGs in navigating this journey.

The joint working between the AHSC and the AHSN (the HIN) is important and I am keen that CAGs see the benefit by further embedding innovation into the CAGs, and by identifying research and innovation outwards to bring greater success for our local partners.

How do you think King’s Health Partners can make a difference in this area?

The fact that King’s Health Partners is collaborative, is already working closely with local and national informatics programmes, and is inclusive, with all services being part of CAGs, is very powerful. This gives our AHSC an extraordinary opportunity to make a difference to the health of our local urban population, to examine inequalities in south London, and make a difference in every specialty.

I have always wanted to work in public health, as the impact these roles can have on people is great – this is what has driven me to roles which at first glance may seem further away from patients. I think the exciting future of King’s Health Partners will enable some of my unrealised public health dreams to come true! Working with King’s Health Partners appeals to me on many levels - the clear tripartite mission, the emphasis on Mind & Body and Value Based Healthcare

What are your top priorities in your first three-to-six months, and the longer-term?

My initial focus will be listening - to the CAGs and the King’s Health Partners core team to learn and begin to prioritise future developments to improve value and outcomes for patients.  I think there is a real opportunity at this time as our partners continue to work more closely together. Other important relationships will be with national clinical directors, industry and international collaborators, NHS England specialist commissioning and London regional teams.

In the future, I think CAGs could be even more outward-facing, making connections over wider networks, and co-designing their plans with integrated care systems, patients and the public. I ask myself these questions – how do we imagine CAGs in an integrated care system?  How might CAGs and primary care develop greater research involvement and collaboration? How should the CAGs and wider AHSC improve the education and training offer to primary care and wider networks?

I see opportunities to create an exciting health and care careers offer supporting staff in their learning for the careers of the future; whether this is connecting mind and body, bringing digital and AI closer to networks of care, or supporting access to our modular post graduate training opportunities.

This year, I’ve already been attending the CAG Leaders’ meetings so have started to learn a little of the huge amount that is going on in the AHSC. I’ve met fantastic, talented, driven people and I look forward to working with all of you.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Without sounding like a string of wisdom quotes (which of course I secretly love), here are my top three:

  1. Listen to understand
  2. Anything you can’t transform into something marvellous, let go
  3. Don’t let people’s compliments get to your head and don’t let their criticism get to your heart.

The best general advice I’ve received has always been from the enthusiastic, talented people around me, saying ‘go for it’, take the less travelled path. I’ve never regretted it.

A final thought, and as I mentioned previously- I think diversity is very important- especially in high impact innovation and research. Innovation requires diverse thinking. People in these roles must be representative of the population that we serve and of our health and care front-line workforce. South London’s ethnic diversity is a tremendous strength which gives us the chance to make strides here, locally, that can have a positive impact on populations globally.

Meet the team of Joint Directors of Clinical Strategy for King's Health Partners.