In Conversation With Charlotte English, Senior Improvement Lead at King’s College Hospitals NHS
We spoke to Charlotte English, Senior Improvement Lead at Kings College Hospitals NHS to discuss imposter syndrome and the mentors who have shaped her career.
Charlotte’s story is part of a series of articles highlighting the careers of female tech leaders within the NHS. We’ve brought together these stories in an effort to prove that the route to leadership is never a straight line.
Starting her career in the NHS at the age of 18 with the intention of taking a gap year before applying for university. Charlotte found a role at Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust as a receptionist.
Here she stayed for the next five years conducting her regular receptionist duties while also taking on responsibilities in developing medical record processes and patient pathways. Before finally ending up in an assistant service manager role managing an admissions team.
“I was bitten by the bug then. I knew I wanted to continue in management.”
From here, Charlotte would move into her first Transformational role at Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust (GSTT). Here she would look at outpatient transformation as well as performance and RTT management.
“I got to work with a lady called Els Drewek who was brought in from NHS England to help with the RTT position and I was like her right hand man as we worked with informatics to redesign all the patient tracking lists and effectively relaunch 18 weeks at GSTT.”
Although just a short 6-month position, Charlotte learnt plenty from Els and the position itself. Next, Charlotte took a position as a Service Manager in Theatres and Anaesthetics. Here Charlotte worked on engaging with specialities to improve their theatre utilisation through reducing any downtime e.g. reducing late starts and early finishes as well as inter-case delays. From here, Charlotte went on to work at King’s College Hospital in another service management role, before leaving the NHS altogether, to undertake a Senior Improvement Lead role for a consultancy firm specialising in theatre and outpatient improvement projects.
Now as Senior Improvement Lead, Charlotte has been working at King’s College Hospital since November of last year. Brought on as a theatre expert, Charlotte’s remit was to lead transformational work on the theatre practices. Since COVID, and the reduced capacity in theatres, Charlotte has switched her focus to implementing digital solutions from third parties with an eye towards helping with outpatient work and performance.
“I’m Not Afraid to Ask Stupid Questions.”
Charlotte’s career in the NHS, which started as a Receptionist and specialised in project management, has seen her take on many opportunities across many different disciplines and teams within the NHS. With an expansive understanding of both the clinical side and operational side of many of these teams, Charlotte is able to combine that with her passion and knowledge of digital transformation to provide solutions for all.
It’s for that reason Charlotte is able to lead digital transformation at the highest level without a formal technical background.
“It helps but it’s not completely necessary. The set of core skills I’ve needed hasn’t changed because it’s all still project management. But, truth be told, when I did make the transition to full digital work - I did feel out of my depth.”
Charlotte, who made the transition to being fully focused on digital transformation last year, found the transition challenging. Working closely with Jaki Allan, who has also contributed to the FLINT series, Charlotte was able to work through the initial challenging months.
“People talk to you as if you do know. At the time that was scary, but on reflection it’s quite nice. There was no speaking down to me at all. Now i’m picking up the pace and not afraid to ask stupid questions. It takes time but now i’m confident in these meetings."
Now with the time and experience under her belt on the technical side of things, Charlotte is able to focus on bringing her project management expertise to the table.
“The projects would still get done if I didn’t have all the knowledge, but I’m one of those people who wants to know what everyone is talking about. I can’t spend my day blagging. I need detail.”
Demonstrating resilience and drive across her career, Charlotte has thrived in highly technical environments that are, more often than not, linked to the responsibility of patient care.
The early days, that Charlotte has discussed, were days characterised with feelings of doubt and insecurity. This doubt is commonly known as Imposter Syndrome and it’s something that adversely affects women.
“Whenever I’ve been speaking to Heads Of IT I do get a bit of doubt. Do I have the right skills set? Am I just pretending? Am i in the right role? Why have I been put into this role? You just need to remember you earned the right to be here and keep working hard.”
Finding A Mentor and Shaping Your Career
Charlotte, who never likes to remain stagnant, has worked hard with each new challenge she has sought. Along each step of the way, Charlotte has made seeking mentors, advocates and allies a priority.
One such mentor came during Charlotte’s first-ever NHS job.
“It was quite a small Orthopaedic centre so although there was a hierarchy, it was the kind of place where everyone knew each other. The CEO there was very supportive.”
Good mentors can be pivotal during major junctures of your life, both personally and professionally. They can steer you clear of disaster, provide prescient views of the future that you can’t see, and heal your soul when you’re hurting.
For Charlotte, her mentor was there to push her and help shape her career.
“He got back in touch with me after he set up a consultancy firm and invited me to come work for him. I took that opportunity and worked there for 5 years. He’s always been someone that looked out for me, pushed me and has tonnes of experience at the highest level.”
Digital Is Ever-evolving and Ever-improving
Having had a career with many challenges and opportunities, Charlotte is relishing the ever-changing nature of the digital space. A space that motivates and encourages her to continually develop her own self.
Charlotte, who often runs lectures at Kingston University, recalls a conversation with her course director where she summarises how she feels about her move into the digital space:
“Last week my course director asked me how I was getting on in my new role and I was saying how I think i’ve found my calling. I really love what i’m doing in digital right now and I can see myself progressing down this route because it’s ever-evolving and it’s ever-improving. I need that.”