Sunday, 9 June 2013

Not answering the phone is a failure...


So I'm trying to speak to someone at the hospital to find out how my Mum is - it's 250 miles away so I can't visit easily. And no-one is answering the telephone - or at least nowhere near enough to give me any reassurance. In a fit of irritation and anger I turn to Twitter and splurge out that the inability to answer the telephone is a failure on the part of the NHS (although, more specifically, on the part of one particular bit of the NHS).

The response was as predictable as Twitter always is on the subject of the NHS - a series of 'how dare you criticise the NHS'. 'the nurses are busy saving lives' and 'answering the telephone isn't a priority' tweets. And I guess they're right on one level - we don't employ nurses and doctors to answer the telephone, we employ them to look after patients. So I'm probably - in a frustrated sort of way - pleased that the nurses aren't answering my call.

However, not answering the phone is still a failure. In the main people don't idly ring up hospital wards just for a chat - when someone rings they're likely to be worried, upset and concerned about a friend or relative. And this is why the phone should be answered and why not answering it is a failure of service. I appreciate that on the scale of NHS service failures it's down the list - way below not giving a thirsty patient a drink, dishing out the wrong medicine or sending someone with throat cancer home because you think it's tonsillitis. But it is a failure - a failure that starts from a lack of humanity from the institution, that's a real, worried person on the line, and continues through failing to mitigate (having an answer phone, for example) to not considering that finding a solution makes any sense.

The point here is that I'm entitled to criticise the NHS as an institution when it fails me - and, unimportant though is may be to those steeped in NHS culture, not answering the phone is a failure.



Pat Nurse MA said...

... and those steeped in NHS culture keep defending it even when it goes wrong so how on earth can we ever move forward and put it right?

The bottom line is patients, and worried relatives, matter first in what is supposed to be a caring institution set up to help them.

I'd rather the NHS employed a receptionist to answer the ward phone than a manager cutting in the wrong places if nurses are so busy saving lives every single minute of the day that they have no time to do anything else.

Anonymous said...

Never forget that in the NHS you are never a 'customer', you are merely a 'patient'.
The fact that you've paid for it doesn't make you a customer, so get used to it and be 'patient', that's what the word means.