Tips to Working in Health Policy
Medic Footprints' director Abeyna attends the Health Policy networking event and discovers lots of great advice on working in health policy
This month’s Medic Footprints festive offering was the Health Policy networking event at the 5th View Restaurant in Waterstones, Piccadilly.
I went along with the primary purpose if writing this article and saying hello to the team. I don’t personally have any interest in working in health policy, especially since I’ve recently resigned from Medicine myself, but I actually had a really great evening, and I’ll tell you why…
The speaker was Dr Harpreet Sood, who graduated from Guys and St Thomas’ before doing an academic FY1 and FY2. Feeling disenchanted with the NHS system, and keen to effect real change, he moved to Boston to do a Masters in Public Health at Harvard, with a specific focus on International Policy.
While in the USA, he worked on a start-up to help manage asthmas medication in children. Also this wasn’t successful, it highlighted Harpreet’s interest in clinical innovation. He now works for NHS England, and his work has many facets and branches. One of his current projects is developing a national Type 2 Diabetes prevention programme.
So do you need a Public Health degree to get into Health Policy?
It’s not a necessity, but it can be very relevant for someone from a clinical background. Health Policy is a way of seeing the NHS as a whole system, so it requires different skills and a very different mind-set. Harpreet often juggles investment with sustainability, and demand with politics. However, he is now returning to GP training:
I realised how vital that frontline interaction is to inspiring real progress.
How do you balance working in heath policy with GP training?
Less than full time training is so much more available now than it used to be, and is becoming more popular as more and more doctors feel the need to mix Medicine with interests outside work. The opportunities for out of programme experiences are increasing; after all, you have to respond to what the workforce wants, and right now, that’s flexible training.
How much clinical experience is required for working in Health Policy?
None at all. Many people doing Public Health degrees actually come from a completely non-clinical background, and clinicians actually working at the top level in the field are few and far between. Harpreet often laments the shocking lack of healthcare professionals in health politics.
How can you make decisions about the NHS without ever having stepped into a hospital?
With this in mind, he is involved in developing the Clinician Entrepreneur Programme, which involves taking 1 year out of training to start up a business. With the current storm around the Junior Doctor Contract, it has become abundantly clear that there are many innovative, creative and passionate leaders within the clinical sphere who could really make a difference at the top if given the opportunity.
Is a Public Health degree the only way into Health Policy?
There are many varied paths you can take into this sector. Apart from NHS England, there are jobs available at a number of organisations that directly influence and lead health politics, such as Public Health England,Monitor and Healthcare UK. Think tanks, such as 2020health influence policy too, as well as health charities. On a local level, CCGs may have opportunities for those who are interested.
Does NHS England take interns?
How and why to network!
After the interview with Harpreet, we participated in some structured networking, which involved using written conversation starters to initiate 2 minute conversations with someone we hadn’t yet spoken to, before moving on to meet someone else. It’s a great facilitator for discussion in large groups, as you might not get round to everyone otherwise.
Having just left Medicine, I am feeling pretty raw at the moment, but I like Medic Footprints events because they provide an opportunity for like-minded people to share ideas.
Instead of being knocked down for my alternative thinking, I was surrounded by people who also thought differently, and this untraditional mind set led them to either improve their current careers, or move onto a different career.
Over the evening, I got advice on how to make LinkedIn work better for me, how to use my blogging skills to find work and even an offer to speak at a conference!
If you’re feeling stuck in your career, go along to a networking event. At the very least, you will meet some really interesting people, and at the most, someone there will have a great impact on your life.
They say it’s all about who you know, so to paraphrase Charles Dickens this Christmas time:
‘Go forth, and know us better man!’
Check out our interview with Dr Harpreet Sood, Senior Fellow to the Chair and Chief Exec of the NHS, as he tells us about how to get a career in health policy.
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