WHY Fronts: Patient Experience

Published: 19 December 2018 Ezine

You (probably) very rarely see patients clinically and some of you will only see patients or their representatives when you are dealing with a complaint about your service.

How then do you advocate the patient experience?

I would suggest that, first of all, you understand what your organisation expects of you when you are dealing with patients (perhaps have a look at the NHS Constitution 2015 staff pages). 

One of the first aims within the staff responsibilities is to ‘provide all patients with safe care and do all you can to protect patients from avoidable harm.’

At this point, it may be worthwhile to reflect on what that means for managers. The imaging standard is of some help here as it asks if you have ensured that your staff are/have:

• Registered professionals
• Competent to carry out the tasks you have given them
• Up-to-date in their training and progression
• A recent appraisal and personal development plan
• Communicated with to ensure they know all the changes in a service to ensure patient safety

This list could go on. It might be worth a look at the standard; as we are all aware, unless we have written evidence that all of this is done, then it is as if nothing is done. How well does your evidence stack up around the patient experience? 

The bullet points above are not found in the patient experience domain but are scattered throughout the rest of the standard. This is why it is always important to look at the whole instead of just a part.

How do you accomplish ensuring all your patients are safe and get the best experience you can give them? I would suggest it is not something you can do on your own but, instead, it is something you should also trust your team leads/superintendents to do. In all honesty, they can probably take care of the majority of issues within their areas and perhaps only bring the difficult cases to you.

Delegation is really important, especially to the people who see the patients clinically, however, it is also important to avoid the disaster of giving the wrong person the job. Make sure the person/s you delegate to understand what you are trying to achieve, how you would like it to be achieved and that you are available for support and advice should they need it. 

1. Find the right person
2. Give them the right job
3. Trust them to do the right thing

It is important as a manager or team lead that you maintain the ‘helicopter view’. What works in one area may work in another not and often you are the only person who can see what each area can accomplish. Plus, you could have access to other support that your staff may be unaware of, e.g. colleagues you meet at a management meeting from other disciplines where they may have useful evidence for you to bring back to your service.

The difficulty arises when those we have delegated to don’t do the ‘right thing’. Is it because we haven’t explained the task? Do they have a difficult team who won’t support them? Or, do they disagree and won’t tell you but instead sabotage what you are trying to achieve?

All of these take time and effort and probably a lot of angst. But, are your patients worth the effort and are your staff who treat your patients worth the effort? 

There is nothing more satisfying as a professional than to see you have made a difference to your patient through being empowered to act or through additional training that a radiographer has used to make the experience easier/better.

For the majority of us, this is why we entered the profession: to make a difference to patients.  Sometimes in the pressured work lives we have, it can be difficult to remember this but it is the most important part of what we do.

Contemporary healthcare policy is moving beyond simple notions of advocacy to empower patients with shared decision-making, values-based practice and public, patient, professional partnership.

Working in partnership with patients is the way forward, but are your professionals ready to work that way?