Sanjay Bhagani

Picture: Label1

Infectious diseases consultant

Sanjay Bhagani has worked at the Royal Free Hospital since 1994, having moved to London to become a clinical research registrar before being appointed a consultant in infectious diseases and HIV medicine in 2003. Originally from Kenya, he moved to Leicester to study medicine and now lives in Camden.

“Normally, my day involves looking after in-patients and out-patients across both services and I have a special interest in the care of patients with HIV and hepatitis,” said Sanjay. “I split my time between the out-patient and in-patient clinics. I act as a consultant on call, which usually means working one weekend in every six or seven.”

The hospital’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been unprecedented. Initially, COVID-19 positive patients were cared for by the infectious diseases team on dedicated wards but before long the whole hospital came together, reorganising services and stepping down elective care, to treat high numbers of patients. “I know my colleagues would say the same, but I have never worked harder, and it’s been tough at times.  We’ve worked much longer hours and it has been rare to take time off.”

This has been interspersed with many memorable moments, says Sanjay. “None more so than seeing colleagues come together for our patients, working fluidly, across specialties with one single aim.

“I’m incredibly proud of all the staff around me and how they have worked together, relentlessly, throughout the highs and the lows.”

“On top of this, we’ve set up clinical trials in record time. We galvanised an entire clinical trials team - clinical research nurses, infection disease clinicians, intensive care consultants, rheumatologists, haematologists all supported by our Research and Development team . It’s something that would normally take weeks to set up, weeks and months to run and months to get results.” 

Life goes on outside of work, and Sanjay’s daughter celebrated her 21st birthday in ‘lockdown’. She’s in Reading, studying at university. “We had a ‘virtual’ birthday meal, using zoom, with some of her housemates. I haven’t seen her for several months, so it was very emotional, and I can’t wait to be reunited when that’s possible so we can celebrate in style.”

Like so many of his colleagues, Sanjay has been touched by the nation’s overwhelming outpouring of support for the NHS and its staff. “That first week, I managed to get home on time. It was 8pm and all my neighbours were outside their houses, clapping and cheering. It was an amazing moment. I was in tears the whole way through.”