Getting to Know… Dr Ammara Hughes

Dr Ammara Hughes is GP partner at Bloomsbury Surgery, Central London, and Clinical Director of Central Camden Primary Care Network. She is working to develop LumenEye, which was created by MedTech company SurgEease, who are one of Bowel Research UK’s Corporate Partners 

Tell me about your career path and why you chose to go into medicine 

I’ve always been interested in science and known that it is my strength. I was never very creative; I left the creativity to my sister! Maths and science came naturally to me, so medicine was a natural career path. 

Despite there being no doctors in my family (I was the first to go to University), I knew by the age of 13 that I wanted to be a doctor. I was always encouraged to do things I excelled at by my parents and my fantastic teachers. My own GP was an Asian woman, and I was lucky to have her as a role model.  

I’ve been a GP for more than two decades now. After I qualified, I did a brief spell in hospital medicine as a gynaecology surgeon, but quickly realised it wasn’t for me – I wanted to speak with people face-to-face to diagnose and treat their conditions. I then did a stint in sexual health before becoming a GP.  

I now also work in primary care leadership, which involves looking at how services are delivered. My job is to understand what people in a local area need and where there are gaps in services, and then to figure out what we can change to address those gaps.  

What is the problem SurgEase is trying to solve for patients? 

In our Primary Care Network (PCN) of around 90,000 patients, we frequently see people coming to us because they have rectal bleeding – between 1,500-2,000 people will make appointments for this reason. We now have a sophisticated way of checking whether this is a sign of bowel cancer, so we can fast-track potential cases for a diagnosis.  

What we don’t have yet is a sophisticated way to help people who have bleeding that is due to another reason, because there is no easy way to diagnose the cause.  

Around 50% of the population will have piles, but most of these cases are internal. We just don’t have the skills in primary care to visualise the rectum internally for a diagnosis.  

Lots of patients have piles or anal fissures that can be easily treated if they’re found. But if left untreated, the symptoms will persist and end up with a hospital referral, which can cause anxiety and require an overnight stay.  

In our pilot studies, LumenEye has been shown to help provide these diagnoses in primary care. Any health professional can be trained to use it, and images can be saved so a specialist can log in remotely and view them if we’re uncertain about anything.  

How are you working with Bowel Research UK? 

Bowel Research UK has helped us raise awareness of rectal bleeding, and that it can be a sign of something serious. And if it’s not cancer, it’s still something that can and should be treated.  

Tell me about your typical working week 

I spend two days a week doing clinical GP work, helping patients on the phone and face-to-face. I also help train other GPs and have on call shifts. I then have two days a week in my PCN leadership role, where I look at how to fill gaps in serving our local population. Then on Fridays I have a day off, which is important for recovery and reflection – my best ideas on improving our GP service come to me Friday-Sunday! 

What are your future plans for work with Bowel Research UK? 

I hope that we can keep the project going and my dream is to expand it to help patients outside of our area and outside London. Our partnership will raise awareness and help us expand the programme. By doing this we might save someone’s life, which for me makes this an incredibly valuable partnership!  

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