The NHS treats one million patients every thirty-six hours. This is a significant number by anyone’s standards but with A&E waiting times on the increase, sometimes between four and five hours according to indirect (a government services website updated hourly), are patients receiving the best possible care under the NHS?
NHS staffing levels is a highly publicised topic and it is no secret that hospital staff are often under paid and over stretched. It does seem ludicrous that public sector staff are paid peanuts for saving lives when compared to the weekly wage of say footballers, musicians or actors, but that is a debate for another time.
It is difficult not to see the irony in the rather inappropriately named Accident and Emergency unit as it is arguable that if you can afford to wait five hours to be seen, it certainly is not an emergency. Waiting times feature in the top ten of NHS patient grumbles. It could be argued, that with the current status quo, this is unavoidable; however, there are complaints that could be addressed quite simply and effectively. Ironically, it seems that all it would take is a little time.
A report by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) showed overall staff attitude accounted for a fifth of patient complaints. The report stated that “non-medical aspects of patient care factor in just under half of those complaints made”.
It is easy to see how a doctor’s bedside manner might not be their primary concern and if we get down to brass tacks, if your leg was hanging off would it really bother you if the doctor omitted a please or thank you? Or would you be more concerned about having your leg re-attached? This situation refers to a genuine emergency; however, if there are patients that can wait up to five hours to be seen, they are more likely to be in the position to pass comment on the doctor’s demeanour. These patients are also more likely to be disgruntled, as they have been left waiting so long.
The solution? If there were a quick fix, undoubtedly, it would have already been administered. Arguably, a step in the right direction, starts with the patients. If the source of many NHS patient complaints arise from over crowded waiting rooms and many patients having to wait for up to five hours, many of them are arguably in the wrong place.
Many of us prescribe to a “better safe than sorry” attitude, especially when it comes to our health, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is the panic culture, however, that is detrimental to the running of the NHS, with patients running to A&E as a knee jerk reaction as opposed to trying other alternatives. If patients took advantage of services such as NHS 111, walk- in centres and local pharmacies, we could see a drastic reduction in waiting times and less pressure on NHS staff, giving them more time to draw breath and maybe even manage the occasional smile.
It could be argued that there is room for improvement in the initial training of NHS staff, particularly in relation to doctors and nurses. If a quarter of the emphasis placed on acquiring the medical knowledge and skills required for the position was placed on the social skills that are equally as necessary for the role, patients may receive an overall better experience. But how can medical professionals practice these skills effectively and realistically? C-Live, our reality training tool, allows trainees and industry professionals to practice, pause and perfect the skills they need to excel in their field.
C-Live simulations allow trainees to experience the panic, anger and frustration of patients in a safe environment, giving them the chance to hone their ability to interact with patients effectively. This kind of role play training could give way to a new generation of better doctors. After all, who instinctively knows how to break bad news to someone? Who can say honestly say that they can tell a mother their child is dying, or a husband that their wife has inoperable cancer easily? These are difficult human interactions at the best of times but combined with the pressures and stresses we have already discussed, it is easy to see how these conversations could go awry.
It is comforting to know that there are solutions out there and with a little bit of time and foresight, we could work towards a better, more patient focussed NHS.