Posted: 28 March 2017
Andy Tilden, Skills for Care’s Director of Sector Development, reflects on some potentially life-changing news; and what really matters to people, regardless of which part of the health and social care system they find themselves in.
In recent weeks I have been experiencing the NHS in a personal capacity and feel incredibly fortunate to be part of a well-organised system that is delivering swift support from GP to local hospital and onto specialist regional units. The answer to the question ‘what is the matter with me?’ (I have a constant sore throat, earache and my teeth hurt) was that I have cancer. Tough to hear for the first time and initially tough to cope with. I am one of the lucky ones as I have a positive treatment plan and am located in a well joined-up system.
There is evidence that integrated systems and structures facilitate greater collaboration of services within and between health and social care. No matter how good these systems and structures are though, real person-centred care will not be delivered if the values, good-will and behaviours of people operating within them are not experienced by people then receiving the service. Being open, kind, clear in communication, caring and compassionate are some of the oils that make the system run smoothly. And regardless what systems and structures exist, health and social care at their heart are a ‘people business’.
Right now, ‘what matters to me? is very important. I want clear, uncomplicated, straight-to-the-point conversations, kind compassionate care and a treatment plan that I understand and feel part of.
There has only been one glitch in an otherwise excellent process. A receptionist in my local hospital - without lifting her eyes from her computer or stopping talking to her colleague - took my appointment card and told me (in response to one of my questions about a similar appointment) was ‘nothing to do with her’. Rather than handing the card back to me just put it on the table without her eyes moving away from the computer screen. I stood at that desk scared and confused, while it was dawning on me that I may have cancer. I walked away from that desk feeling worse.
Thankfully this was an isolated case. All her colleagues - similarly pressurised - the hardworking radiographer, health care assistant, various students, nurses, doctor, anaesthetist, speech and language therapist and consultant - have made me feel valued, cared for and involved in the process. All other receptionists have been clear, helpful and supportive. A quick phone call by me to one of her colleagues answered my questions and eased my anxiety.
Integrated systems are only as good as the people that work within them. I am very fortunate to be working with great folk who are able to address the ‘what matters to you’ question. I would hope your service does the same, and if not challenge it, as person-centred care is a right, not a privilege.