Career Stories - Dr Bhavagaya (Bea) Bakshi
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Dr Bhavagaya (Bea) Bakshi

Sessional and Out of Hours GP
London

I am a GP and entrepreneur with a strong foundation in health policy, leadership and digital health, working in the NHS.

I’ve always been passionate about making a difference to peoples’ lives and to society. My enthusiasm for medicine was compounded by the novel way we measure success in healthcare, not by profit margins or balance sheets but by patient outcomes, which benefit all. That passion and enthusiasm led to me becoming a GP and to now leading the way to fight cancer with C the Signs.

During my foundation year 2 at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, I was required to undertake a quality improvement module or audit. I met a colleague who was equally passionate about the application of technology to solve everyday challenges for both patients and doctors. As junior doctors we spent much of our day on the phone to switchboard, chasing numbers to call other specialist teams to refer patients, organise tests and investigations. This was back in 2013, before digital health or innovation was a concept. Ambitious and eager, we set our minds to developing an app operating as a ‘Yellow Pages’. Within three months we launched our App on the App store and had over 450 downloads across the trust.

For me, this was my lightbulb moment in my journey as an entrepreneur. I recognised that there was huge potential to impact many more lives and improve the care and wellbeing of patients using technology. And I had found my calling.

2 years later, during GP training working in A+E, I met a patient who presented seriously unwell. He had seen his GP on several occasions over the preceding 6 months, with progressively vague symptoms to no avail. I quickly organised a scan and had the unfortunate responsibility of breaking the news to him that he had metastatic pancreatic cancer. He never once said, ‘Why did I get cancer’, but instead asked me ‘why was my cancer picked up so late?’ He sadly died three weeks later. These words stuck with me.

The patients dying words inspired me. I know as a GP it’s extremely difficult to identify the earliest stages of cancer. There are over 200 different types of cancers, each with their own signs, symptoms and risk factors. The earliest are often vague, non-specific and overlap with other more common health conditions. If diagnosed early over 80% of patients would survive 10 years or more, compared with a late diagnosis where that reduces to less than 20%. In a ten-minute consultation, this can be an impossible ask for GPs.

Once I realised the challenge of early diagnosis of cancer in primary care, I called my colleague Miles and said we need to develop an algorithm to diagnosis patients as early as possible. From then on, we were doctors on a mission.

C the Signs was born with a clear purpose to re-imagine a future where everyone survives cancer. Within a year we had developed the first digital tool for GPs using artificial intelligence mapped with the latest evidence to identify patients at risk of cancer at the earliest and most survivable stage of the disease.

The journey so far has been exceptional – demonstrating the impact technology can have on patients lives through early diagnosis. We’ve been able to roll out our technology and have received £1.1M of funding from the NHS through awards. We’ve been commissioned by (currently) 20 Clinical Commissioning Groups, covering a population of 5,000,000 patients.

Alongside this, I teach Healthcare Entrepreneurship to medical students at King's College London. For me it’s important to empower the future generation to think laterally and to creatively solve frontline challenges in healthcare, using innovation and entrepreneurship.

As doctors, altruism is at the heart of everything we do. We are driven and motivated by achieving the best outcome for our patients. As such, GPs are well positioned at the beginning of the journey to help solve everyday challenges that we face in the NHS.

Right now, our focus is to respond effectively to the Covid crisis. Referrals for suspected cancer have dropped by an astonishing 75% due to the pandemic, with 30,000 fewer patients being referred each week, and 2,300 new cancer diagnoses being missed. In response we’ve mobilised a Covid-19 Cancer Hub working with charities to support cancer patients and have also deployed the tool remotely across the NHS, to improve identification and streamline the diagnosis for patients at risk of cancer. We are working with Cancer Leads across the NHS to safeguard patients.

As a sessional and out of hours GP, it’s not unusual for me to work 10-12 hour days or work weekend shifts. I try to incorporate yoga, reading and other mindful activities into my daily life where time allows. But, more than that, it’s really my passion and motivation of dedicating my life in a purposeful way to help people, which gives me the mental clarity and resilience I need.

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