Shera Chok at Schloss Leopoldskron during the second meeting of the 2018 Sciana cohort

Shera Chok at Schloss Leopoldskron during the second meeting of the 2018 Sciana cohort

Shera Chok – We can use networks to solve universal problems in health care


UK general practitioner describes the challenges she faces in her professional life

It seems that not a day goes by in the UK media without a story about the pressures the National Health Service (NHS) is facing. A lack of funding and staff shortages can cause longer wait times for patients and increased stress to staff.

Shera Chok has been a GP in Tower Hamlets, an area of East London, since 1997. As a member of frontline NHS staff, she has experienced these increasing challenges first-hand. Chok said, “The current funding incentives do not always support collaboration or integrated care.

“There is a critical personnel shortage. Many doctors who work in primary care are retiring early, in their 40s and 50s, or they’re cutting down to working one to two days a week simply because of the pressure, and this isn’t sustainable. We can’t deliver a high-quality service if we haven’t got enough primary care clinicians. So I would say that’s probably the most pressing challenge.”

Chok is one of 18 health leaders from across Europe who are part of the Sciana 2018 cohort. They reunited for their second meeting in Salzburg on Saturday, November 24.

The Network was launched by the Health Foundation, Robert Bosch Stiftung, and Careum Stiftung in collaboration with Salzburg Global Seminar.

As well as working in her clinical role as a GP, she has also worked in various aspects of management. This work includes being the current medical director for the Tower Hamlets GP Care Group, as well as being a member of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel which advises ministers on NHS redesign programs.

Another area that Chok recognises as a challenge for the NHS is that of digital communication, both internally and with patients, and how it is not being used to its full potential to overcome the challenges of underfunding. Progress is being made within her area of Tower Hamlets, but some difficulties remain. Transforming the NHS requires a workforce that is digitally confident, and she is setting up the first NHS network of women of colour in digital health and technology to build more diverse and inclusive leadership of the NHS – the Shuri Network.

“Regular interaction between different groups of clinicians is critical to improving patient outcomes and experience, but at present, there is almost no time for you to do this across acute, primary and social care. So I think the whole workforce model needs to be changed to look at how do we actually work as a system rather than single organisations. Clinicians need to be released from their buildings to walk in each other’s shoes and understand the different challenges we all face daily.”

On a more personal level, Chok added, “I find it really useful hearing from other people about how they manage to find a way through some really difficult times.” Chok has said having a window into a patient’s life is a privilege. “It’s become more clear to me over the last few years that patients might spend thirty minutes of their lives a year with you, but you can still have an impact and leave them with something they might remember positively for the rest of their lives.”