Collaboration in primary care: interview with Dr KJ Patel

20 September 2018

Dr KJ Patel was born and raised in the United Kingdom, where he trained as a GP with dreams of being his own boss. A while later, he made the decision to move abroad in search of a quieter life.

KJ eventually settled in Havelock North, where he has enjoyed working in general practice for the last 12 years. He says New Zealand was an easy choice.

“Canada was having a lot of trouble at the time, and Australia had a bunch of animals and things that wanted to kill me. But everyone I’d spoken with said New Zealand was amazing.”

“It was the best move ever, and I’ve never looked back.”

Now, he’s an integral part of Hawkes Bay’s primary care community, working in a practice while also serving as a Medical Advisor for the Health Hawkes Bay Primary Health Organisation.

In this advisory role, KJ is part of a team that includes local GPs Dr Kerryn Lum and Dr David Rodgers. The trio were heavily involved in the organisation of the recent Hawkes Bay Primary Care Symposium, which was hosted with huge support from their PHO colleagues Steph Maggin and Rochelle Robertson.

The small team of five “put their heart and soul” into the event, managing to bring together more than 300 local GPs, nurses, practice managers and primary care workers.

“The symposium came about from a multitude of different factors,” says KJ.

“We had people from other areas telling us how they think primary care should be delivered, but they were referencing services we don’t have locally. On the positive side, our primary care practitioners know our population incredibly well.

“The symposium gave us a really good forum to look at solutions to our problems, to showcase our local talent, and encourage innovative thought to address these challenges.”

The two-day weekend event took place on 8 – 9 September, and focused on inter-professional collaboration and the primary care team. 

The programme included both practical sessions for GPs (such as suturing workshops and tips on pain-free joint injections), as well as programme items for the wider primary care team (such as tips on helping unwell patients in the waiting room or reception area).

The event also built on relationships with the local psychology and radiology departments, sharing updates and ideas for improvements between primary and secondary care teams.

Symposium attendees were clearly passionate about improving the quality of care in their region, and advocated on behalf of their patients to call for better local services.

This is the part of general practice that KJ says he enjoys most: the relationships with his patients and colleagues.

“Having been here long enough now, I’ve seen young children turn into teens. I’ve seen teens go off to university, I’ve seen university students come back and become parents. I’ve seen fantastic workers retire, and I’ve escorted people in their final phases of their life into their death.

“All of those situations are really privileged positions, and enormously rewarding to be a part of.”

For KJ, it’s clear why general practice is a great option for anyone considering a career in medicine.

“If you want long-term and rewarding contact with your patients, this is the profession to be in.” 

“If you want to have a team approach, and work with people that you can grow, develop and care for, then this is the profession to be in.”

Listen to the original interview

Interviewer Matt Buck caught up with KJ at the 2018 Hawkes Bay Primary Care Symposium - hear what he had to say about coming to New Zealand, being your own boss, and more.