“Here to Help” by David Johnstone

“Hello, how are you today? Is there anything I can help you with?”

These simple but effective words had an instant affect on me. They came from a teller as I entered a bank – of all places! – in Australia.

Whilst I didn’t need any help, it got me thinking about our channels of communication with people we serve here at NHS Dumfries and Galloway.

Only recently, hospital managers in Acute and Diagnostics took forward a pilot to make themselves more visible at the front entrance of DGRI.

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What did this achieve? (I hear you say!)

Rather than waiting for you – patients, visitors and staff – to come to us, we took a proactive approach and decided to go out to you.

It goes without saying that too often all of us get caught up in the day-to-day jobs and diary commitments that it is too easy to lose sight of what we are actually here for. That is to deliver high quality, person-centred care and treatment for all who access our health services.

Over a week, we scheduled time in the diary for us as managers to stand at the front door and listen to what people have to say.

By showing a visible presence, we were met with a constant flow of real time feedback from those coming in and out of the hospital. There was positive praise for individuals and teams in the hospital which was directly fed back to staff. We also dealt with families worried about loved ones and in need of direction and support. We were able to deal with the situation there and then. Feedback gathered included:

  • very positive feedback at Accident and Emergency, Ward 10 and 7. The standard of care is excellent
  • A 92-year-old patient had a positive experience in Ward 16. She loved the food!
  • Patient and family gave good feedback about care delivered in Ward 18. She said: “Canny fault the hospital.”
  • Patient commented that Ward 16 was very busy but the care was very good.
  • Person commented the wards were gleaming and were very clean and tidy.
  • An elderly couple commented on the lack of parking facilities
  • It was noted that some visitors were not using hand gel when going in and out of wards
  • It was said the ‘staff are brilliant and you couldn’t ask for a better place to work.”


Mr Whitelaw went to Berlin recently to see how our European counterparts deliver health service. As he entered the German hospital, he was met with a trained nurse who was there to help. Again, the impact was extremely positive. There is no opportunity for feedback and complaints to get lost. Things are dealt with in real time, face-to-face.

We are all aware of how important patient experience is and the challenges that we must meet to deliver on targets set by the Scottish Government. Reflecting on my own experience from the pilot it has confirmed how we all, no matter what level of the organisation we are at, have a responsibility to listen and help.

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It is perhaps good timing, especially as we start the ball rolling on how we want the inside of the new hospital to work. We are now developing a sustainable approach to ensure our managers are constantly visible. For my part, I am involved in recruiting new nursing posts at the moment and I very much plan to ensure that the ‘Here to Help’ approach comes as standard.

If each and every one of us – especially “the management” – ring-fenced some time to help the people we are here to care for, can you imagine the message this sends out?

David Johnstone is Lead Nurse for the Acute and Diagnostics Directorate at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

7 thoughts on ““Here to Help” by David Johnstone

  1. “Listen & help”– No doubt is the right approach and I think this is going to improve patient care in the long run.

  2. Brilliant idea and so simple! By supporting users and visitors in this way it must be reassuring particularly to those who dont understand how our organisation works, where to go, who to speak to etc. Well done David!

  3. What a great blog David and what a valuable message. Its exactly this kind of approach which allows us to focus on the most important elements of our service – delivering high quality, safe, patient-centred care. Remembering the fundamental ‘basics’ of what, when and how we communicate and interact is perhaps one of the best ways we can improve our care provision whilst achieving a high standard of pride and satisfaction in the service we each deliver. Its great to see this approach, often demonstrated at ward level, being supported and actively encouraged by senior management.

  4. Good blog David, it absolutely reminds everyone of the reason we are all here. If we keep that simple principle in the forefront of everything we will have safe, effective and person centred care!

  5. Pingback: A, B, C – Art, bubbles, carers | weeklyblogclub

  6. Very interesting and thought provoking piece of work. Lets all try to listen a little more and be “Here to Help” Thanks Davo!

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