However, on this occasion as I approached the healthcare assistant – let’s call her “Anne” – who appeared to be running the clinic (sure enough effectively in a corridor), I notice she kept the clinic list carefully shielded from my eyes, and when I gave my name she retrieved my file from a row of all the others hidden under a long strip of blue hospital paper (you know, the stuff on big rolls like kitchen towels).
I said how impressed I was at her simple but effective attempt to protect patient confidentiality under difficult circumstances, and said I was chairman of NADPO so knew a bit whereof I spoke. A little bit later Anne called me from my seat and I thought it was to take me to my appointment. However, she took me to her manager, and they explained that Anne had previously been criticised by one of the clinic consultants, who felt the blue paper was inconveniencing him, and who would at times remove it and throw it away.
So, I thought I’d write a letter – to the Chief Executive of the NHS Trust, copied to its Medical Records Manager, and Anne herself – praising her actions.
I completely forgot about it but yesterday out of nowhere received a card. It was from Anne saying that she’d received my copy letter, although she hadn’t heard from anyone else (not the Chief Executive nor the Medical Records Manager). She said that the letter was the nicest thing that had happened to her at work in 16 years.
I think this illustrates several things: 1) the NHS, and the public sector in general, are overstretched and confidentiality is potentially compromised as a result, 2) even in times of austerity low-cost information security measures can be effectively implemented, 3) sometimes people lower down are frustrated by, or even undermined by, those above them, 4) compliments are enormously valuable, and too rarely offered.
But there’s one final point. Anne had said in her card to me “I hope [the Chief Executive] wrote and thanked you”. Well no, she didn’t. And nor did the Medical Records Manager nor anyone else in the Hospital Trust. Only Anne had the courtesy to do so, and she was not the one who the message needed to get through to. I’d like to name (and slightly shame) the Trust, but I’d then identify “Anne”, and I don’t want to do that.
The views in this post (and indeed all posts on this blog) are my personal ones, and do not represent the views of any organisation I am involved with.