Evening clouds

Evening clouds
Sunshine and Clouds

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Care and compassion? Time to think and act.

Care and compassion?
I must start by saying  the Ombudsman's website itself deserves praise for its layout, clarity and ease of use.
This report from the Health Ombudsman's office is difficult reading for a nurse; however I feel it should be compulsory reading for all in the health care business; particularly those in training. Not only have the patients and families been let down; the behaviour of 'front line ' clinical staff and management alike have led to this situation. They have let their professions and colleagues down too.
I must acknowledge the good work that goes on within the NHS day by day; but the numbers of complaints the Ombudsman has to deal with leaves me wondering about the frequency with which health care professionals are getting it wrong.
Yes, nurse and doctors are getting it wrong too often - leading to standards of care that fall far short of best practice that are rightly exposed in the report.

The reasons may be varied - but unless staff speak up about pressures on them (e.g. staffing levels, poor practice of colleagues), using written reports copied to unions, there will be no evidence that they noticed the pressures and acted to bring them to the attention of managers and others who are responsible.
Whatever the reasons staff may have for poor standards - it would seem individual clinical staff are not applying the principle of putting the patient first; allowing themselves to be distracted from that tenet is where it begins to go wrong.
It can be forgotten that each of us may have others to whom we are important; the story of Mr & Mrs J shows that so well.
Even within areas of care (cancer and Palliative care) where so much has been written about good practice; education offered and expertise is available, that Mrs N and family went through what they did only serves to reinforce negative messages about the way people die - and support the argument for the need to introduce legislation allowing the opportunity to help those who wish to end their lives by assisted suicide, for example.

Such examples play right into the hands of those who will sensationalise all that is worst about health care; and management is no exception. When reading the Case studies http://www.ombudsman.org.uk/care-and-compassion/case-studies it is the poor response to the original complaint that leads to the Ombudsman being involved. Why is the NHS taking so long to get investigation, communication, and restoration through action right? An apology early on can go a long way to making people feel heard. Subsequent action is important too; making sure those involved know how serious the situation is; reinforcing the need to think at work - to work on your thinking too - so that we all remember who to put first as we go about our work.

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