News and events

In conversation with Janet Jugdeese who started out as a girl Friday before climbing the ladder in the NHS

This week’s subject of In conversation with is Janet Jugdeese, our speciality manager for cancer.

Age: 52

Lives: Hornchurch

Personal life: Fiancé Denis, daughter Anisha, 24, and son Ryan, 20

And…From a girl Friday, to a jet-setting career in retail to the NHS, Janet’s definitely got a story to tell!

What’s your role and what does it involve?

I’m the speciality manager for cancer so I’m responsible for all our cancer referrals. My team contacts patients who have been referred for suspected cancer and gets them in for tests. I also work closely with GPs. It’s a really varied role.

How long have you been with us and how did you get here?

I joined the Trust in 2016. I’d been working at the Commissioning Support Unit as Assistant Director of Contracting and Commissioning, working closely with Barking, Havering and Redbridge CCGs.

I was seconded to the CCG to work on improving patient flow through our emergency departments. I helped set up our Joint Assessment and Discharge team, so I worked with lots of Trust staff.

Then the opportunity in the Trust came up. We weren’t performing as well as we should in cancer and the then Chief Operating Officer, Sarah Tedford, remembered me.

I remained at the CCG and did a couple of days a week at the Trust for the first year. I loved working here and Sarah could see that so I was able to join full-time.

We’ve just heard that we’re marking a whole year of hitting the 62-day cancer referral standard. Tell about how we’ve been doing this.

The main things we looked at were changing our systems and processes, improving clinical engagement and enabling ownership from the divisional teams.

We improved communication and have increased our workforce, including a lead cancer nurse, which has made cancer everybody’s business.

It has been a real team effort and we couldn’t have done it if our Trust wasn’t committed to enhancing the service.

Tell us more about your early career.

I started out at 17 as a ‘Girl Friday’, I was working on reception at an advertising company in London.

After that I wanted to do something different so I went into retail, joining the Arcadia group, looking after shops like Topshop and Dorothy Perkins. I became a home shopping buyer, which involved a lot of travel. It was the perfect job - if you didn’t have children.

Then I became a single mum-of-two so I needed a job which wouldn’t take me away from home so much, so I got a PA job in a primary care group in 1999, my first NHS job.

My sister worked in the NHS and said to me it would be an easy life, a nice 9-5 job which would be better with the kids!

I’d gone for two jobs, the other in a strategic health authority, I chose to be PA for the Director of Acute Commissioning as I thought there would be better career opportunities, and there was a nursery right next door!

I’ve been really lucky to have great opportunities throughout my career, which is why training and development for my team is really important. I’ve also spent lots of time in primary care, which has given me a real understanding of both sides.

What made you interested in working cancer?

It’s always been part of my life in my family, my mum had brain cancer and my nan had lung cancer. I didn’t feel I was emotionally ready for it before.

How do you inspire your team to do their best for our patients?

Telling them that our patients are not a number and to treat them like a member of your family.

If it was your mum, partner or friend who had cancer, you’d want them to get the right treatment as quickly as possible, wouldn’t you?

What was your dream job growing up?

I wanted to be a teacher, I got as far as working as a teaching assistant but as a single mum with a mortgage, I needed to earn more money. What’s nice now though is that my daughter is training to be a teacher.

You got engaged to Denis at 50 – how did you two meet?

He’s my best friend’s cousin and I’ve known him since my daughter was a toddler. Four years ago we were out and he asked me to dance. I’d been single for a couple of years and felt I was in a good place so I did, and once we were in each other’s arms; that was it! We’ve been inseparable ever since.

But he won’t marry me until I’ve got a better work/life balance. He said the Trust has taken over my life!

You’ve recently had need of our Trust’s services yourself…

I had surgery to remove some cartilage from my knee in June. I had an excellent experience, although I was told I’m not a good patient as I don’t do what I’m told.

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