This week is a big week for us in the NHS and probably one of the most significant in the services’ transformational journey. Tomorrow will see the publication of the long-awaited Francis report, which will not only force us to come face-to-face with the reality of when things go wrong in hospital care, but its recommendations will also provide us with a blueprint of a much better future of care for our patients.
In anticipation, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to an issue that we’re expecting to feature heavily in the report: the need to embed the patient voice in service improvement and redesign.
‘Listening to the patient voice’ has been covered in previous reports into Mid Staffordshire and has now become an important (and statutory) facet of service improvement activity in NHS organisations.
The reasons for this are simple: [highlight]everything about a service – from the way the phone is answered, and the way GP examinations are carried out, to the way the nurses explain what’s happening – impacts on what the patient thinks and feels during their time with us.[/highlight] Through genuine and on-going engagement, leaders have invaluable opportunity to listen, learn and develop services that are truly responsive to patient needs.
Leadership is a contact sport and a fully ‘human’ skill. It requires knowledge and technical skills, sure, but also requires emotional intelligence of what ‘feels’ right for those we serve. The only way this can be achieved is by removing the barriers between leaders – from the board right through the ward– and the patients their organisations serve.
And as leaders, I believe our understanding of the patient experience is one of the most effective mechanisms we have to prevent us becoming disconnected from patient needs– and the massively negative impact that can result from this. This becomes more imperative the higher up we are in organisations. Board members need to be as tuned as ward sisters to the patient perspective – only then can we achieve truly patient-centered decision making.
But the question is – how best can organisations effectively and systematically achieve a meaningful dialogue with patients? I’d be interested in hearing your views. I know that there are some fantastic best practice examples out there.
Whichever way it’s done, leaders should welcome the emergence of patient involvement with open arms, and report feedback willingly and honestly, at all levels, so that there is no hiding place for inadequate care.