Dr Nick Tupper blog: learning lessons from your complaints

DSC_0176The NHS is often criticised for not listening enough to the people who use our services.

When everything goes well it’s good to be praised, but I also believe in learning from those occasions when things have not gone as expected.

We call this ‘patient experience’. The personal stories that patients tell us about their contact with the NHS, whether it’s for treatment, an appointment or any number of other reasons.

At NHS Doncaster CCG we routinely analyse a range of healthcare data to look at how local services are performing. But behind every graph and figure are the patients who have used those services and their experience in doing so.

Every patient has a story and those stories are valuable sources of information. Having an operation or any form of treatment is an anxious time for the patient and their family. That’s why it’s so important that the CCG – which has responsibility for monitoring the quality of those services – takes time to listen and learn from what patients tell us so we can make improvements where necessary.

We want every patient to have a good experience on every healthcare journey they have with the NHS.

To help us understand from the patient’s perspective, we set aside time at our monthly Governing Body meetings to hear a patient’s own care story. They tell us exactly as they see it, in their own words, good, bad or indifferent. Some of those stories have been really powerful to hear and in some cases difficult for the patient to relate.

Importantly, each patient gives their time freely in the knowledge that we, as the people responsible for organising and providing Doncaster’s NHS services, are listening and keen to learn from them.

Last month we had a representative from the Doncaster deaf community who, through an interpreter, outlined the difficulties that people like her have in accessing health services that are geared towards hearing patients. We’re going to work closely with the community to understand better their needs.

Listening to patient stories helps keep me and my CCG colleagues firmly grounded. Good experiences, in the shape of compliments, indicate which health services are performing well and giving high patient satisfaction. But complaints and negative feedback may flag up that improvements need to be made.

We’ve captured a number of patient stories in a new book, a copy of which has been sent to every GP practice in Doncaster for placing in the waiting room. It sets out what we learned from patients and some of the changes we have made to the way we organise services as a result. Each of the featured patients has also been given a copy. You can read an electronic version on our website at https://tinyurl.com/dccgyearbook2014

If you have an interesting patient experience story, why not tell us about it?

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