If Aneurin Bevan had had a utopian vision for his National Health Service, it still wouldn’t include the kind of care that I have received over the past week at Kingston Hospital in Surrey.
I have been a patient elsewhere in my life and I have worked independently at hospitals within the NHS, both in the South and North on clinician-patient relationship initiatives and often get the sense that X or Y could be tinkered with to change some element or other to improve the patient experience – but from arrival at A&E and throughout my stay on Isabella Ward, this hospital seems to be a centre of excellence.
The whole staff team from admin to Consultant embraced the “My name is….” initiative and I met no one whose name I had to ask. A truly international line-up of staff tended to patients with dedicated respect and courtesy. I have never met anyone from The Congo before my stay and I wondered where else would I outside of the gloriously inclusive NHS.
I am ashamed to say I had a crying meltdown in the CT Scan room and Oliver the Nurse, Faria the Operator and Toona the Porter all rallied to reassure me – that response takes energy and time beyond their job description and it is this exact energy and time that plays a part in the wider role of patient recovery and wellness without a doubt.
The Consultant, Mr Deguara, who despite being on duty for 48 hours, was sharp and thorough and I understood in that moment why, in our vulnerability, we consider Doctors as “Gods”. There we lay, writhing in pain, ignorant of the minutiae of our ailment and they put a hand here, press there and mutter something to their team and the journey to recovery begins. It’s a church by any other name.
When I looked around the waiting room at A&E on arrival, most of the faces were young and therefore had no idea of life before the NHS and for some, no experience of living in a country where an institution like this was an unobtainable dream – but I remember tales of “Don’t call the Doctor, it’s a shilling we can’t afford” from my own childhood in Ireland. Similar tales could be told in the UK about life before the NHS. But I would wager that no one, including Bevan, could have imagined a place where it’s not just the medical intervention that is the prevailing provision but where each patient is greeted with empathy, talked to – not at, listened to, respected and cared for like this. Like most people outside or inside the NHS – we don’t necessarily understand “how” it works, it is after all a giant of an idea transferred into a giant reality.
Everything seems to work in this hospital; one is aware that there is a system and framework to ensure your safety each step along the way. Everyone knows what they are doing and the good staff morale infected the patients to the extent that we, complete strangers, found ourselves bidding “good morning” and “how are you?” to each other.
Just as Estate Agents never switch off and can, apparently, be heard muttering the measurements of any living room they are invited into – I too can’t disconnect from observing the prevailing team ethos wherever I go.
I wondered where this very real courtesy and respect to the patient originates in the hospital? Who drives it? Was it a whole-company Marks & Spencer’s type ethos: “this is how we conduct ourselves” or was it organic?
The aspect of an institutional ethos that always interests me most is the “broken window” syndrome: in a street where one broken window is left unrepaired, more windows will get broken” in that if the person next to you doesn’t care and the person next to them doesn’t care then there seems little point in you caring. Equally the opposite is true – where leadership is good and compassionate – a workforce is confident and dedicated.
So, it’s obvious that staff have good morale, have good systems and provide quality care but I am very interested in the “how” they drive it through the whole hospital. There is a paper waiting to be written on how Kingston Hospital achieve this because someone must have led the way.
If I had never worked or patiented (it isn’t a real word) at a hospital before, I would consider that all our hospitals were like this. I have and they aren’t, but they could be.