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A catch-up with Professor Jon Cohen, King’s Non-executive Director

02 January 2024 - Last month, Professor Jon Cohen, Non-executive Director at King’s, stepped down from his role, having joined the Trust Board in 2015

As a member of the Trust Board for eight years, Jon reflected on his strong association with King’s, and the memories he will carry with him as he moves onto new things.

Why did you decide to become a Non-executive Director (NED) at King’s?

In truth, I hadn’t seen the role advertised, but somebody phoned me up and asked if I’d be interested, which I was! I’d just stood down from my role as Dean of Brighton and Sussex Medical School, and I was looking for a new challenge. I wanted to stay involved in healthcare, so I applied, and was appointed in 2015, and here I am eight years later!

The fact it was King’s made it more appealing. I’ve been a patient at King’s College Hospital, and I obviously knew about the Trust, and the services it provides. Academic medicine is also a small world, so I knew it was an exciting organisation that I wanted to find out more about.

What does the role of a NED involve?

Many people who take on NED roles have been an executive director at some point in their career. Being a NED is of course very different – you are not responsible for running the organisation – so it can be a steep learning curve in terms of knowing what to get involved in as a NED.

As a NED, your role is to be a critical friend. Your role is to listen, to give advice, and to offer constructive challenge – and this is why most Boards, like King’s, have NEDs from a range of different backgrounds, which is always helpful.

What positive memories will you take away from your role at King’s?

I have always been struck by the strength and resolve of King’s staff. When I first joined back in 2015, the Trust was going through a particularly challenging period, and yet despite this, it didn’t adversely impact the attitude of staff, or the care they provide to patients.

King’s is in a much better place now, but like much of the NHS, continues to face enormous challenges, not least during the COVID-19 pandemic. And yet despite being one of the busiest Trusts for COVID-19 admissions, our clinical outcomes were amongst the very best nationally, which is a phenomenal achievement; so seeing the organisation respond so well to a once in a lifetime challenge was extraordinary to see.

What areas interested you the most during your time as NED?

As a NED, you are part of a unitary Board, so I need to be across all the issues affecting the hospitals we run, and the services we provide. Of course, given my background, I am particularly interested in infectious diseases, and how they are managed – and during my time as NED, I advocated strongly for the expansion of outpatient parenteral antimicrobial therapy, which enables patients to receive intravenous antibiotics in the comfort of their own homes. I am pleased to say that this service is now very well-established across the Trust, which is positive for both patients, and staff.

What are you going to do next?

There are lots of things I want to do, but I really want to improve my Italian! I’ve been learning for a while, and I’d describe myself as ‘not bad’ – but a personal challenge of mine is to get as close to fluent as I can!

I will have very fond memories of King’s, and I will stay up to date with what’s happening at the Trust. It’s a special place, and I feel very proud to have had such a long association with such a superb organisation, which does so much good for so many people.