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Why every piece of feedback makes us stronger

Update from Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust

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picture of Ben Mearns

I've just been going through our latest stories on patient opinion and I can't tell you how impressed I am with the honest way that patients and their relatives let us know what went well and what did not.

A central theme today is something that I already know. We have an issue with waiting times for some patients in our waiting room in the Acute Medical Unit and I need to fix it. One patient story highlights the issue out of frustration and the other mentions the same issue but as part of a very positive experience. It is fascinating that the same issue can come from two different directions but of course the issue is still the issue and the solution is needed no matter who tells us and why. This is why I welcome negative and positive feedback equally - its all about solutions.

It is odd that this has taken so long for us to fix and I have asked a Consultant colleague and a Physician Assistant to look at ways to limit waits for all patients who are visiting on foot. However it continues to be a challenge. I think this is because the same doctors seeing the ambulatory patients are also seeing the very sickest patients and therefore can be redeployed at short notice leaving a patient sitting for an extended period. Our tolerance for this waiting time appears to be much higher than it should be and it is puzzling why we would ever accept it. This of course is why feedback is so important as this issue is clearly higher in our patient's minds than our own.

Therefore I will fix the problem this week by assigning dedicated staff to our ambulatory area and get them trained to focus on "customer experience" - horrible term, but absolutely necessary.

Another lovely story related to the care of a patient with dementia and indeed their relative wrote that they thought everyone on the ward had just been on special training because the care was so good. Little did they know that is exactly what happened and it is great to see results of our training filtering through into stories from those we serve. It made me smile.

Keep the feedback coming please - good or bad - it makes us stronger.

Dr Ben Mearns

Clinical Lead for Acute & Elderly Medicine

Response from Ian Reeves, Consultant geriatrician, Medicine for the Elderly, SGH GGC on

I agree - even in my limited experience of PO stories for Glasgow, I found the parts that challenged us to improve much more rewarding than the obvious 'compliments'.

It's along the same positive thinking as changing what we say to 'What matters to you' instead of  'What is the matter with you'

Things we don't think are important, are to our patients and their families.

We were discussing person-centred care today and discussed a lot of how it must feel to be on the other side. Doing this made us realise how uncomfortable it must be for relatives  to receive a patient's belongings (especially after they have died) in a large white plastic bag labelled 'Patient Clothing' in big red letters.

We should do lots of 'small' things like improving this, before, and not after, the 'quality' and the 'bundles'.

I'd be interested to hear how your plans to improve things work out.

Response from Ben Mearns, Chief of Medicine, Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust on

Thanks for your comment Ian.

From personal experience the difficulty here is that once an organisation moves on and embraces transparency it can be extremely destructive if another organisation or indeed the press acts negatively towards that organisation once they have been open and honest.

A good recent example is the way in which the Daily Mail treated Kate Granger following her excellent talk to the NHS confederation by publishing all of the bad with none of the good. This made her feel terrible and question whether she was doing the right thing which of course she is.

Other day to day examples relate to "performance" and of course if you recieve a negative response to "bad performance" you will endeavour to make your performance look better to avoid the negative consequence. When negativity is in play the quick fix is the most rewarding whereas it might not be the best answer and misses the whole point that the indicator is merely highlighting where to look for a solution.

I think that the whole NHS has to move on in one go, and indeed the press and others need to understand that if they attack innovators when they are the first to "give it all" then it will limit transparency in the future.

It does need a fair degree of re-wiring though doesn't it? Hopefully the CQC will make a point of rewarding trusts who lead on it.

Would you like to respond?