Dr Partha Kar, associate national clinical director for diabetes, NHS England, on making a difference in diabetes care, and pharma’s role in its future

What is your background and current position?

For the last nine years I have been a Consultant in diabetes and endocrinology at Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust. I did my initial medical school training in India and returned to the UK in 1998 to complete my medical education, becoming a consultant in 2008. I’ve held my position at NHS England for a year or so.

What does your day-to-day work involve?

My role at NHS England focuses largely on policy, in the sense of trying to guide strategy and determining the main areas of focus for diabetes. Also on my agenda I’d like to look at ways of working more closely with the British pharmaceutical industry, to explore how industry and the NHS can work better together for the benefit of patients. Raising the profile of diabetes in different formats, improving safety in hospitals, improving amputation rates, and preventing type II diabetes are also key focal points.

Why are you so passionate about diabetes?

Partially because I was trained with some very inspirational people along the way who happened to work within the field. I also spend a lot of time on social media where people with type I diabetes voice the challenges they face. It is a lifetime disease, and it is good to be able to help along the way and be part of the patient journey.

What do you feel could make the greatest difference to raising the quality of care of diabetes patients?

This is a vast question but if you boil it down then better recognition of the types of diabetes and education, for both patients and healthcare professionals, are two areas that hold the key to improving diabetes care. For type II diabetes a large proportion of care is carried out in the primary care setting, so more support, raising awareness and healthier lifestyles could make a significant difference there, while for type I diabetes it is more about improving access to services and technology.

Should there be greater collaboration between the pharma industry and the NHS to improve the management of diabetes?

In my opinion I think we should explore this avenue. We need to move away from the days of suspicion when, understandably, people worried about conflicts of interest and why pharma were wanting to get involved. We need to consider their role in trying to improve care. It has to be about more than just providing medicines or products. Some firms are coming more to the fore on this, and we would like a much more open and transparent dialogue about it. I would like to explore the chance to work with pharma as long as it is open and transparent. Initiatives such as improving access to education, improving achievement of targets and raising awareness are always very welcome.

What do you feel has been your greatest achievement in your professional role?

At NHS England we’ve been able make the case that diabetes needs better investment, which we have secured for this year and next. Also, being able to raise awareness of the disease through initiatives like the comic book for people with type I diabetes.

What are your passions outside of work?

I like movies. I’m a big movie buff. I’m quite nerdy in this respect but I love comic books. Batman is my favourite – a dark, angsty, loner – the perfect anti-hero of life.

Have you ever been given any good advice that you can pass on?

Don’t take yourself or your job too seriously. Don’t believe your own hype, learn to make fun or yourself, because life’s too short.

What keeps you awake at night?

Nothing. I’m a very relaxed individual, very little would keep me awake at night, unless there’s something directly involving my family. 