bad treatment for elderly
But it’s not only the elderly who are subjected to rudeness and bad treatment by some NHS staff. The NHS needs to put itself into a patient’s shoes, and work out what is best for THEM – NOT the hospital.
And remember that the NHS is funded by the patient – NOT out of a bottomless purse. So make sure the patient gets value for money.
Somehow, treating patients with dignity and courtesy seems to have two meanings:
1. Staff meaning might be : “you are ONLY a patient”, and may give no thought to what patients are actually feeling.
2. Official attitude might be: we say we care for out patients (to stop them complaining).
This was amply demonstrated in the TV Junior Doctors programme, when ‘caring’ doctor Lucy was shown spending a great deal of time looking after one elderly patient, and even asking about her arrangements for when she got home. Those who care for elderly relatives who were in the same ward know full well that the reality can be very different – when cameras aren’t around to record what actually can happen.
The same hospital has a £600 banner waving above its Atrium, proclaiming that it won a PEAT Award for ‘Dignity’ i.e. treating patients with courtesy.
What’s a PEAT Award? Er – something awarded by the hospital to itself.
So you guess that dignity and courtesy can be lacking.
I went to see Mrs. M in hospital – a very old friend and employee. Asking a nurse where I could find her, and was there anything I could do to help, the nurse said it would be helpful if I could remember to shout. Shout? Her hearing was razor-sharp.
Talking to her (in a normal voice) she said that she didn’t answer if they called her Joan. Only if they addressed her as Mrs. M.
One feisty old lady’s solution to bad manners; a pity nurses don’t ask patients how they want to be called as a courtesy.
Having a Colonoscopy probably isn’t high on most patients wish list, but this hospital has a department run by Sue, where the staff are unfailingly polite. They work in a cramped corridor (called a ‘ward’), yet Sue’s staff are the type of nurses you just have to hug – they are so helpful and courteous. So if Sue can give dignity, kindness and courtesy to patients on her ward – why not others?
The Receptionists who snarl “what’s your date of birth?” (what’s dignified about that?) try to tell you that this is the way their IT system works. Obviously this has been set up by someone with not an ounce of courtesy in their veins.
So what happens in the private sector? They know that to ask this question in front of a packed waiting room is a security risk; in fact Scotland Yard frowns on the practice, and says no-one should give out personal information in front of strangers. So in the private sector, if a Receptionist has to ask for a DOB, they push paper and pen across the desk and politely ask if you will write this down.
I now ask for pen and paper every time an NHS receptionist asks for this – and surprise, surprise – they are perfectly happy to comply, making me think that they must have been warned to do it this way, but have ‘forgotten’ until a patient reminds them.
Watching patients arrive at A & E, it is obvious that some are in pain. They may not be very polite; understandable when every step is painful, yet one frequently hears receptionists snap “I don’t have to listen to your rudeness”.
It’s NOT being rude, and they should realise that the person shouting at them would probably be horrified if they knew how they were behaving. But when you can’t think for pain, your manners go out the window. The receptionist is NOT in pain and they should be trained that part of their job is to make allowances.
Being drunk is NOT an excuse for bad manners, and if a receptionist snaps at an abusive drunk they should be applauded. But training should tell them the difference.
Another local hospital has some horrors as Outpatient Receptionists. Check in, and although they know the Consultant hasn’t even come down from the operating threatre, they say nuffin. After an hour or so, you meekly ask if someone has forgotten you exist? Visible sneers, and you are told Consultant is still upstairs/is running an hour late, etc.
Another hospital has installed an expensive LED screen to alert patients. Only problem is, Receptionists can’t be bothered to up-date it.
Perhaps best system would be for Patients to ask when checking in, “how late is so-and-so running?” Last time I did this Receptionist was very happy to tell me “he’s running an hour late”. So I told her I would be back in one hour, and went off to see a friend.
For patients to be told that a Clinic has lost their notes can be devastating. You have been waiting for months to see the Consultant, and then realise you are expected to make another appointment weeks down the line.
Last time this happened to Bettina, she said “I smiled sweetly and said I quite understood this must be a problem for them, but I would wait whilst they looked for the notes. My appointment had been for 3 pm – the notes were ‘found’ at 4.55. But at least I got information I needed on that day and didn’t have to wait weeks for another appointment”.
Another friend had the same thing happen to her. Her consultant said she would see her, they talked, and consultant said she would email the test results when they turned up. Results turned up in her inbox two days later; on the same day that a letter arrived from the hospital saying ‘as you didn’t turn up for your appointment you are off the list. If you wish to re-book you will have to get a referral from your GP’. That is really polite!
Figures get bandied about regarding the cost of the NHS computer system (did I hear £60 billion?). What seems extraordinary is that in a system where various hospitals can belong to the same trust, they can’t work out a way of checking if a patient has already got an appointment booked when they confirm a date.
Imperial NHS Trust ‘owns’ several hospitals. Patients can be booked into one for an appointment, but need to have another appointment – so you can guess what happens. The two appointments can invariably be scheduled for same day with not enough time for a patient to travel between hospitals – especially if their first appointment is running late.
It would be courteous and helpful if
- Every appointment letter gave out a dedicated number so a patient could phone straight through to change times/dates, rather than the general number which can see patients waiting up to 30 minutes to be answered.
- If an appointment is running late, Receptionists did everything possible either to ‘insert’ a patient in next, or to help the patient by phoning through to the next clinic, explain what is happening, and work out with that receptionist if the doctor can see them later.
What to do
LISTEN to patients. The NHS is a National Health SERVICE, and as such is there to serve contributors i.e. the general public.
And imagine every patient is a friend of your mother/father. Treat them the same.