I’ve been looking at more of the figures and statistics we routinely analyse to help us understand the health Doncaster and once more it has reminded me that behind every figure on a spread-sheet is a patient story.
In fact, many patients with many stories, for whom their healthcare experience will have had a profound effect on them.
It’s important that clinicians like me recognise and appreciate the impact that potential ill health, and actual ill health, has on a patient as well as their family and friends.
When you think you maybe ill, how many people do you tell? Illness, and the conversations associated with illness, often define a person.
On a recent tour of the Stroke Unit at DRI I visited the CT scanner room, where thousands of Doncaster people have had scans. It made me think of the anxieties and emotions that patients must suffer when they are referred for a scan and how I would feel if I was in a similar situation.
My previous visit there had been to accompany a doctor colleague when his scan revealed a brain tumour, and more recently the father-in-law of a friend of mine at the CCG had the extent of his brain haemorrhage confirmed by the same scanner.
Both experiences had massive personal impacts on the two people themselves, not to mention their friends and family members.
When a GP thinks a patient may have cancer they are fast-tracked to see a hospital consultant within two weeks. The NHS has got better at speeding up diagnoses, but two weeks is still an agonising amount of time for anyone to wait if they have a suspected cancer.
It’s important that managers and clinicians recognise this and help patients ‘navigate’ their way through the healthcare system as quickly as possible to minimise any psychological trauma.
As a CCG we’re looking at developing ‘one-stop’ clinics where patients will be able to access a range of diagnostic facilities under one roof, in different places in the Doncaster area.
These clinics enable faster diagnoses and have already been introduced for heart failure. In Doncaster we have a very good TIA (mini-stroke) service that is very quick and far faster than the national average. Also, we have a TELEDerm service in GP surgeries to take a digital photo of certain skin conditions to see if they need urgent treatment. These are all ways of trying to minimise the worrying wait for patients before being able to confirm whether they have anything wrong with them
People often think that doctors like me become hardened to what we see in surgeries and hospital settings. To some extent we have to, but that doesn’t stop us from being able to recognise the worries and fears that our patients have when they need the NHS. In fact, it keeps us grounded and makes us want to do all we can to make their healthcare journey as smooth and stress-free as possible.