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interview

NIKI KEENE

“I

The international wellness director for Curves talks to Kate Cracknell about caring for people, setting standards, and teaching the fitness and healthcare sectors to speak the same language

won’t be intimidated by the old boys’ network,” says Niki Keene, one of the recent additions to the FIA board. “I

don’t have a background in the industry, I don’t know the big players, and I’m not daunted by how many millions some of them have made or what company they’ve been head of. I intend to play devil’s advocate. Why have they always done things the way they have? If we want the health sector to entertain our industry as a partner, might there be alternative approaches worth considering?” Keene certainly speaks from a

position of authority when it comes to understanding the expectations

of the healthcare sector: she trained as a nurse in the mid-1980s, working across all clinical disciplines. Subsequent promotions took her into fi elds such as cardiology and general medicine before moving into senior management in 1994, spanning both the NHS and the independent health sector. “But I think the thing that gives me

The coach at the centre

of the circuit ensures kit is being used correctly

an edge is the 10 years I spent as a regulator,” she says. “I’d become very interested in standards of care and how you measure and audit that, so I moved into regulation – still using all my clinical background, but looking at raising standards in treatment. And that’s my passion: to make sure we all get the care and treatment we deserve. It doesn’t matter what sector you’re in: if you’re providing a service, the quality of that service should be good, and there’s no reason why anybody – in any sector, any industry – should fail to deliver that. However, it’s often hampered by management, or the company structure, or a lack of training.”

quality assurance

Keene’s regulatory role focused predominantly on auditing hospitals, and she was involved in bringing together the auditing of NHS and private provision within the same framework. “Interestingly, that’s where I think

we are with the fi tness industry at the moment,” she says. “We have two sets of languages, born of different commercial views, to join together: for the most part the independent sector is for profi t, while the NHS clearly isn’t for profi t. Being able to measure and look at quality of service across two industries that have two very different sets of outcome requirements is an interesting challenge. “It comes down to quality and provider

assurance. The healthcare sector wants to know that third-party providers will be able to deliver high standards of service and good outcomes to its patients, and we have to look at what

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