Can I make a difference? by Paul Gray

It’s a big question – can I make a difference?  How does it feel to ask yourself that?  For some of us, the answer will be different on different days.  My experience suggests that your answer depends much less on what you do, than it does on how you feel.  In this blog, I’d like to offer some thoughts on making a difference.

However, some context first.  I fully recognise the challenges we face.  Health budgets are going up – but pressures on recruitment, and the demands of an aging population, are also very real.  There is also still much to do in tackling inequalities, and improving the health of the population, which NHS Scotland can’t do on its own.  And we do know that people have the best outcomes when they are treated and cared for at home, or in a homely setting.  So our current models of care are transforming to meet these demands, and to provide the most appropriate care and treatment for people, when they need it, and change brings its own challenges.

So my first suggestion is to turn the question, “Can I make a difference?” into a statement – I can make a difference.  If you start from that standpoint, you’re much more likely to succeed.  It’s easy to become pre-occupied with the things we can’t change, and the barriers and problems – I know that I fall into that trap from time to time.  But wherever I go, I see people throughout the NHS, and in our partner organisations, making a difference every day.  So ask yourself, what is the one thing I can do today that would make a difference?  And then do it!

paul-1Now, give yourself some credit – think of an example where you did something that was appreciated.  Write it down and remember it.  If you’re having a team meeting, take time to share examples of things that the team did, that were appreciated by others.  Sharing these examples will give you a bank of ideas about simple things that matter to other people.  And it also gives you something to fall back on, if times are tough.

Next – think of an example when someone did something for you, which you appreciated.  Find a way to share these examples too – if it worked for you, it might work for someone else as well.  Ask yourself when you last thanked someone for something they did well, or something you appreciated.  It’s easier to go on making a difference if others notice what you’re doing!

If you’re leading or managing a team, ask yourself how much time the team spends discussing what went well.  It’s essential to be open and transparent about problems and adverse events, but if that’s the whole focus of team discussions, we overlook a huge pool of learning, resources and ideas from all the positive actions and outcomes.  And we risk an atmosphere where making a difference is only about fixing problems, rather than about improvement.  So, as yourself and your team, what proportion of time should be spent on what went well?

Remember to ask “What Matters to You?”.  I know that the focus of this question is on patients, and that’s right because they are our priority, but it’s a good question to ask our colleagues and our teams as well.  Just asking the question makes a difference – it gives you access to someone else’s thoughts and perspectives, and is likely to lead to better outcomes.

paul-2Will any of this change the world?  Not on its own, of course.  But you could change one person’s world, by a simple act of kindness, or listening, or a word of thanks.  You can make difference!

Paul Gray is the Chief Executive Officer for NHS Scotland and the Director General for Health and Social Care at the Scottish Government

Is My Prescription Ready Yet? by Laura Graham

Have you ever pondered why this question is asked so frequently? The lifecycle of a hospital discharge prescription is rather complex, hopefully I am going to highlight the current process, and why it matters for everyone to be mindful of it in order to help improve it.
• Patient identified as being suitable for discharge within 48 hours, via a daily dynamic discharge meeting or ward huddle (planned) or during a ward round (often unplanned)
laura-g-1 Doctor finalises typing the prescription which also includes a summary letter of the admission using the inpatient notes, electronic prescribing system (HEPMA) and any other relevant info e.g. lab findings/scan results/social work info/referrals for follow clinics etc. Most prescriptions are started prior to discharge, but only submitted to the pharmacy team once finalised (doctors have the option not to submit to the pharmacy team where possible, for example a nurse could dispense simple prelabelled medicines from the ward). Average time 20 minutes

laura-g-2Clinical pharmacist performs an initial prescription check–
which means that they are happy that the prescription is accurate, cost-effective and safe for that patient. On surgical, medical and care of the elderly wards this happens at ward level using the initial medicine reconciliation (list of medicines that a patient was actually on admission), inpatient notes, any relevant investigations, and by speaking to the patient which helps detect any discrepancies or further issues. The medicines are sorted into either ward stock, pharmacy stock, medicines to be labelled on discharge or the patient’s own medicines to be returned (note we try to only supply any new or changed medicines to improve efficiency & reduce confusion for the patient) Average time 30 minutes

• Amendments are required in 75% of DGRI prescriptions by the prescriber for various reasons e.g. Wrong inhaler device selected, interacting medicine, out of stock medicine prescribed, incorrect legal requirements documented, non-formulary medicine started with no documented rationale, patient requests an alternative medicine, medicine missing from the discharge prescription that the patient was previously on. This percentage just highlights the complexity of the process and does not reflect lazy doctors. Average time 15 minutes.
• Prescription and medicines are taken to the pharmacy department on the lower ground floor by a porter or auxiliary nurse (no designated service). Average time 10 minutes
laura-g-3Prescription is dispenesed then accuracy checked, relevant medicines are supplied, labelled and any pharmacy stock returned by a pharmacy technician. It is then accuracy checked by a different staff member, usually a checking pharmacy technician, before the patient copies of the discharge prescription are printed and an electronic copy is emailed to their GP. Note the dispensary also produces prescriptions for other areas such as out patient clinics, peripheral hospitals, prelabelled ward medicine packs, controlled drug orders, therefore there is often an invisible workload already there. Average time 60 minutes.
• Prescription identified as ready & collected from pharmacy by a nurse checking the ward Cortix board for the live status of when a prescription is ready (green pill icon) or pharmacy will call the ward if it requested urgently. The prescription must then be collected from pharmacy by a porter or nurse. Average time 10 minutes
• Registered nurse goes through the prescription with the patient on the ward. Average time 10 minutes
Are you still awake? Me neither! So on an average day it takes around 2-3 hours from when a patient has been told that they are going to home, to their prescription being ready, and that is only if we get each of the 8 steps correct. In practice, there is usually a delay in one or more of the steps which can be very frustrating for the whole team and the patient. The exact point of the delay varies each time due to external factors such as staffing levels, the POD system not working, no designated prescription porter service, a high number of patients admitted, complex polypharmacy, high risk medicines, poor documentation or planning. We do have quicker variations of the above cycle,but only for patients deemed to be at a lower risk of medication errors, such as arranged admissions where prelabelled medicine packs are available for nurses to dispense straight from the ward for simple medicine regimes, such as painkillers.
The most crucial part of the whole process, I would argue, is talking to the patient. It is well documented that 50% of patients do not take their medicines as prescribed, for various reasons, perhaps lack of understanding, their regime is too complex or they get unbearable side effects. Up to 10% of hospital admissions are due to medicines, again perhaps due to side effects or treatment failure by not taking the correct regime. The most common medical intervention in hospital is to prescribe or alter a medicine. We also know that 25% of medicine reconciliation lists are incorrect on admission and 75% of discharge prescriptions require amendments. Our current I.T systems are very useful in isolation, but information often must be copied from one system to another making mistakes easy and slowing us down significantly. Here in lies the problem; the communication of what a patient was taking when they came into hospital, verses any changes made during their hospital stay is not always fully documented, especially for patients already on several medicines (polypharmacy). Medicines are poisons when not used correctly or with extreme care. Why does it matter if we get a few medicines wrong or miss off their bisoprolol 2.5mg daily, who cares?
I want my prescription now and I want to get home!
Currently the pharmacy team are spending too much resource focusing on rectifying problems at the point of discharge, resulting in avoidable delays. We have completely revamped the way we work by:
• Becoming paperless for our pharmacy team communication (via notes on HEPMA) and documenting any relevant information within the inpatient notes
• Constantly developing a semi electronic discharge prescription & workflow system (eIDD & eIDL)
• Developing a triaging process for emergency admissions; so that only relevant patients are followed up during their inpatient stay, as we need to focus on where we have the most impact which is admission & discharge
• From this week, investment has enabled the triaging service for emergency admissions to be extended to 7 days a week, this will improve the number of patients seen on admission by the pharmacy team (currently only 10% with a weekday service) to allow any medicine related issues to be identified earlier.
• This investment also includes a hospital pharmacist now working with primary care to follow up any complex issues or referrals from the hospital team on discharge
Discharge times matter to us all. So what can you do the improve this?
• Follow the national medicine reconciliation process when clerking in, if you do not carefully check what medicines a patient is actually taking on admission, this will cause delays in their discharge when the junior doctor is trying compare the admission and discharge medicine list for any changes.
• If you are reviewing a patient, look at the medicine reconciliation list, if there is not a clear plan documented for each medicine, challenge it and ensure someone reviews it. It will soon become common practice not to ignore any lists which do not include a dose or a plan.
• If you prescribe a medicine, document an indication, plan and review date. Never assume that it is obvious, telepathy is not a skill! Everyone has different knowledge.
• Also think about ‘realistic medicine’, could you manage to take the regime that you have just prescribed?
• Listen to patients during a medicine administration round, if they think something is wrong, please check as we are all human and errors happen.
• Encourage patients to bring their medicines into hospital, it reduces missed doses, unnecessary ordering of medicines and highlights any compliance issues (our pharmacy technicians check them against the HEPMA system)
• If you are a patient, please ask at every opportunity, what medicines you are being given and why. It matters to all of us that there is a clear rationale and plan for everything.
• If you want to check if a prescription is ready, view the colour of the pill symbol on your ward’s cortix board before calling the pharmacy team, as this delays us
I apologise that the blog today was not an easy read, but if you have any further ideas for improvement then please contact us at dg.pharmacydept@nhs.net.

Laura Graham is a Clinical Pharmacist at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

Daily Dynamic Discharge (DDD) by Patsy Pattie & Carole Morton

“Daily Dynamic Discharge is to improve the timeliness and quality of patient care by planning and synchronising the day’s activities”.
(The Scottish Government, Edinburgh 2016)

The 6 Essential Actions for improving unscheduled care was launched in 2015. The 6 actions were identified as “being fundamental to improving patient care, safety and experience for the unscheduled pathways”. One of these actions is “Patient Rather Than Bed Management”. This approach requires the multi disciplinary team working together to plan and synchronise tasks required to ensure a safe dynamic discharge process, aligning medical and therapeutic care, discharge earlier in the day and transfer back to the GP in time, reducing the length of stay in hospital.

image2
Why do we need it?
The recent day of Care Audit in September 2016 indicated that 30.5% of patients in hospital beds did not require acute hospital care. These patients should have been transferred to another area for continued care or discharged home.
For some health professionals, too many conflicting demands on time often results in optimising work in such a way that may seem logical to the individual, especially if you are covering across wards, but may not be optimal for patient flow. This mis-synchronisation can cause delays and increase the length of stay for patients. Where there is a clear priority of order of tasks for that day, each individual team member plays their part in ensuring the priority tasks for patients is actioned or completed, which works for the patient, thus reducing delays in discharge or transferring the patient.

Who is doing it?
Ward 10 was nominated as the Exemplar ward for DGRI and implementation commenced in early September 2016. Early indications show that time of day discharges are taking place earlier in the day around mid afternoon. Prior to the introduction of DDD 27% of patients had been discharged by 4pm, in the four weeks since implementation the figure has almost doubled to 49%.

When are we doing it?
Each DDD ward huddle usually takes place at 9am each morning. Some wards have incorporated a DDD catch up meeting into their afternoon handover huddle.

What are the benefits?
The DDD approach promotes proactive patient management for today and preparing for tomorrow’s activities i.e. increase accuracy on our discharge position and increase awareness of the need to create capacity at key points throughout the day.
This is aligned to The Royal College of Physicians acute medical care “The right person, in the right setting – first time” (please see link below).
https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/0924/4392/files/acute_medical_care_final_for_web.pdf?1709961806511712341
A recent quote from Vicki Nicoll, SCN ward 10:
“DDD for us has had such a positive impact on the ward as we are finding patients are being seen by all members of the Multi Disciplinary Team (MDT) in a timelier manner.  The patients are being discussed rather than going from one weekly Multi Disciplinary Team meeting to the next.  Interventions are being done more timely from all members.  We have noticed that length of stay has reduced and patients that you would normally presume would be with us for some time seem to be getting home quicker. We recently had a patient who was a complex discharge and I personally thought the patient would have passed away in the ward, but everybody pulled together and we were able to return the patient home.  Sadly, she passed away at home, where she wanted to be with her family”.

“DDD has taken away the thought that nurses should do everything when in fact it is everyone’s job to work together to ensure that the patient is on the right pathway”.

DDD is currently being rolled out to most of the acute wards in DGRI and a test of change commenced on 21st November in Annan Community Hospital. Implementation at the Galloway Community Hospital is planned for mid December.

We all have our part to play in the planning of a safe discharge for our patients, DDD enhances our current processes, promoting an MDT approach with teams working collaboratively and more robustly.

Patsy Pattie works in the Acute Services Improvement Team and Carole Morton is an Assistant General Manager Acute Services for NHS Dumfries and Galloway

Let’s insist on the possible by Valerie Douglas

Many things in life are complicated, require great debate and despite huge resources are not guaranteed to be successful in practice. There are other things which are simple to understand, can easily be implemented and immediately make a difference to improve lives or in some cases save lives. You only have to think of the meaningful campaign to change the care of people with a diagnosis of dementia led by Tommy Whitelaw (Tommy Whitelaw @tommyNTour). It makes sense and it hits you in the heart. As a professional you cannot listen to Tommy talk about caring for his mum and withhold your support for this campaign. His mum is your mum.

Another example is Kate Grainger’s inspirational campaign (#hellomynameis). This focuses right in on the doctor/patient relationship. It goes further than just making us think more about face to face contact with patients who may feel vulnerable, distressed and in alien surroundings. It asks us to look at our practice on a basic level, to say our name aloud, on every contact. At one point this patient was Kate Grainger but the patient could be any one of us.

Last November an important, widely supported campaign for the mandatory teaching of Cardiopulminory Resuscitation (CPR) to schoolchildren was unsuccessful. This Emergency Bill was opposed despite irrefutable evidence that it saves lives. In Norway it has been compulsory for schoolchildren to be taught CPR since 1961 and survival rates are double what they are in the UK. As out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is the commonest life-threatening emergency in the UK so I thought this campaign was bound to be fully supported and unchallenged. You can imagine my disappointment.

I felt at a loss about what to do next, yet felt there had to be a ‘next’. To increase survival rates of cardiac arrest the immediate action of bystanders is crucial. Personally I have carried out CPR three times, twice in a hospital setting and once at a family event. A day of laughter and pleasure turned into tragedy. Event though, as a nurse, I’m aware that the outcome from CPR is variable for a myriad of reasons, I was left affected by this last experience. Then a doctor said to me, “If I had a cardiac arrest I would want someone to have a go.” I am glad I have been taught CPR and am able to ‘have a go’, otherwise the most I could have done that night would have been to phone an ambulance instead of giving a friend a chance of life.

What could I do now? I decided to put together a resolution to RCN Congress 2016 calling on governments to mandate the teaching of CPR to schoolchildren (the remit of the Emergency Bill had been wider, encompassing all kinds of First Aid). The resolution was accepted and I presented this in June this year.

There were wide ranging contributions to the debate. Personal stories were shared about children delivering CPR successfully. A delegate told us about a situation where his 27 year old teammate collapsed during a game of football. 23 players including the referee were there and nobody knew how to do CPR; this man died. He went on to describe a more recent experience when an instructor was brought in to teach CPR to the junior football team. Within 10 minutes they were doing it perfectly.
Some delegates expressed concern about the effect on children if they delivered CPR and it was unsuccessful. Others answered this by saying: remove the fear, teach them young. The evidence is there. Someone else highlighted again that encouraging CPR lessons in schools as an add option is not enough; teaching needs to be a requirement so that there is no national disparity. Kate Ashton made a very acute observation at Congress:
“If we can educate youngsters in schools about sex education and creating life then surely we can educate them about saving lives.”

Every year an estimated 60 000 out of hospital cardiac arrests occur in the UK (BMJ 2013;347:f4800) It could happen to any one of us. What can you do?
Write to your local MP and express your support for the campaign to mandate teaching of CPR.
Become a local First Responder.
Find out if your town/village has a defibrillator and where it is kept.
Ask your school if the teaching of CPR is on the curriculum.
Let’s insist on the possible.

Valerie Douglas is a Staff Nurse in Mental Health at Midpark Hospital, NHS Dumfries and Galloway

“Ae Fond Adieu” by Alwayn Leacock

Recently the NHS Trust of Dumfries and Galloway saw the departure of its greatest ambassador ever.

When I first arrived in Dumfries in August 2000 I thought I was going to the end of the earth. I had driven through fields of greenery and seen more sheep, cows and land than my native country.   I was briefed on arrival by Colin Rodin and Fiona Patterson to report to Mrs Mcvittie the residences officer. Having lived in several NHS residences in England I was already in fear of the staunch matriarchal and regimented residences officers who were very territorial   and authoritarian and had very little conversation with anyone.  I shuddered once more at the thought that I was going to be housed in a military barrack and be greeted by yet another person of the same making who gave me the impression that they were merely facilitating my refuge in this country and that I ought to be on my best behavior and conform to UK norms and standards.

The Tobago keys a UN declared Marine Park just south of Mustique in the Archipelago state of St.Vincent and the Grenadines

The Tobago keys a UN declared Marine Park just south of Mustique in the Archipelago state of St.Vincent and the Grenadines

When I met Mrs Mcvittie for the first time that fear and reservation vanished immediately. Behind the desk sat a lady with a most welcoming smile. She greeted me in a most alluring and delightful way and informed me that she had already met my  country fellow Dr Camille Nicholls  who was another “cold tatty” like myself. Camille had to be provided with extra blankets to survive her winters. Her first concern then was whether I was managing in the cold. I could not be compared with Camille Nicholls, because apart from being an excellent physician, she was a   stunning five foot eight   beauty who made heads turn when she walked into a room.  All the men held their breath to the point of collapse not wishing to exhibit their customary abdominal protuberance.   She enquired about Camille’s’ well being.  From her conversation I could sense that she had a very good rapport with Camille as she appeared well versed about the geography of    Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, its  pristine  volcanic  black sand beaches,  the turquoise  blue Caribbean waters ideal for sailing and the splendid  golden sands   on which  Kiera Knightly was marooned with Johnny Depp on the Tobago keys in that ever so famous scene form  pirates of the Caribbean.

Mrs.  Mcvittie possesses a radiant personality which placed one immediately at ease and made a very cold September very warm. After I moved into the house at C3 Mayfield terrace there were several calls to find out if I was comfortable enough and if the accommodations had fallen short of anything I wished.   I had no complaints the residences despite not being plush and ultramodern were very clean and some of the best kept and habitable ones that I had lived in thus far in the UK.    I had very little need for further embellishments. The psychological and the emotional support and welcoming embrace made one forget about any adversity if there was any.  As a non EU resident as MTAS and the EWTD took effect   I went from being employable to non employable. Locum trainee to non trainee and therefore was set adrift. One day I was working in Dumfries doing a locum replacement for Heather Currie and the next day I had no job and could not be given a job. Over the subsequent years my sojourn took me to many hospitals and regions of the UK looking for work.   Strange but true despite having an excellent command of English and having worked in the system for your years I was no longer required. I almost fell victim to the massive Exodus of trained non European doctors who had to leave the NHS and the UK. I did eventually leave for a brief period and then was given employment in England when the job advertised for on several occasions was not taken up by a European. That short respite allowed me to gain indefinite leave to remain in the UK. My next step was to wind my way back to Dumfries and guess who was there to greet me as a prodigal son or sheep that had been lost?  The delightful Mrs. Mcvittie.

I was welcomed like a long lost friend who had returned home once more and the feeling was reciprocal  amongst the affable Scots. Mrs. Mcvittie is the “hands on” type of boss who looked after everyone and made sure they were well. If you infringed the residency rules you received a little note placed under the door asking you in a rather polite and diplomatic way to conform and be considerate to others. When you looked through the windows in the early morning you could see her approaching and before going to her office she would set about doing little errands around the compound. She was never afraid to muck in and get her hands dirty.  She was an ambassador extra ordinaire I am yet to meet anyone in her capacity that can fit in to her shoes. She it was that gave the trust in Dumfries a face and a persona that foreign doctors like me could hold on to as being welcomed and appreciated. I was delighted to nominate her for the excellence award a few years ago and was rather disappointed that her work and that of her staff were not recognised as being equally important to the function of the NHS as a heart bypass surgeon. I was devastated that she did not get that  award and even more so that someone revealed to her that I had nominated her and so my secret was blown and I embarrassingly and to admit to her rather coyly  that she was doing a herculean job that few could manage equally as well.

So it was that with much sadness and personal grief that I attended her small farewell gathering at the Margaret Barty room. I thought many more would have been there to give her the fond farewell she deserved.  I sincerely hope we can use her as an occasional resource person in teaching hands on human relations for which she has a natural knack.  I wish her well in her retirement and hope that she will be around for many years to come. She is a truly remarkable daughter of the soil of Dumfries.

 

Dr Alwayn Leacock is a Specialty Doctor Obstetrics and Gynaecology at NHS Dumfries and Galloway

 

 

 

Topping Out by Phil Jones

Reflections on the Topping Out Ceremony (held at the site of the new hospital on the 14th September 2016)

In June last year, just 15 months ago, I stood spade in hand alongside Cabinet Secretary, Shona Robison, in a big green field and said:

‘Today marks the start of one of the most significant periods in the history of public services in Dumfries and Galloway.’

We were marking a significant milestone, ‘breaking the ground’ for the start of construction of the new District General Hospital (ground works to prepare the site for construction had started in March, just days after Financial Close). I went on to say that we expected it to be delivered on time, on budget and built to the highest standards.

Decent progress on that front I think.

The decision to invest in a new hospital was taken well before that date, indeed before my time as Chairman, and a huge amount of work was put in examining different business and financial options before a final business case was approved in partnership with the Scottish Government in June 2013.

Our corporate team, under the leadership of Jeff Ace the Chief Executive, had complex overlapping work streams to manage, that I could simply categorise under technical, financial, legal and commercial, to get us up to and beyond financial close.

There was however nothing simple about it. I know from my own experience how professionally challenging all of this is.

I take this opportunity to say to Jeff that the leadership demonstrated in delivering on this vision through clear direction, the creation and motivation of a top team, and importantly the confidence to let them get on and do what they are best left to do is outstanding.

phil-jones-1topping-out-2

Turning now to that top team, Chief Operating Officer, Julie White who is the Project Executive and Katy Lewis our Finance Director  have taken this project forward at the same time as doing their day jobs, and also in tandem with Executive roles on our newly established Health and Social Care Integrated Joint Board.  Both are held in the highest regard locally and nationally and we are rightly proud of them. 

It is also right I think to acknowledge the contributions made by the previous Board under the Chairmanship of my predecessor, Andrew Johnston, who I was delighted could join us at the Topping Out Ceremony.

We see so many examples, in all walks of life, of the negative effects of short termism, and it is really uplifting to see that in Dumfries and Galloway once again we can, and do make strategic decisions for the longer term benefit of the people of our region in the knowledge that these projects will probably be completed after our individual terms of office.

There were many important decisions to make and history will clearly show the foresight and resolve of the Board in providing this region with a health care service to be proud of, and one that stands comparison with best of the rest.

This 344 bed acute facility, which includes;  a combined assessment unit, theatres complex, critical care unit and out patients department has been designed, in collaboration with clinicians and patients, adopting new models of care and utilising cutting edge technologies.

All directed towards providing patients with the highest standards of care, and providing our staff with the highest quality working environment.

We required additional community benefits to be delivered through the project, and High Wood Health, in conjunction with construction partner Laing O’Rourke, have more than delivered on their commitment to provide opportunities for local people and businesses. They have exceeded targets set to employ local people, provide apprenticeships, graduate placements and opportunities for small and medium enterprises to tender for contracts.

I was an ex apprentice myself and really value that route through to a lifetimes work.

This project will deliver not only a first class health facility but also a lasting legacy through jobs creation and skills development.

It is also important that I acknowledge the small army of our own staff who, in addition to the day job, are working in 16 or more specialisms and in dynamic teams under the Change Programme that is being skilfully led by John Knox, which I must say impresses me greatly.

John and his team are working to ensure the high quality services delivered at DGRI migrate as seamlessly as possible to our new District General Hospital later in 2017, incorporating amongst other things the most modern technology solutions.

I understand that Graham Gault and his IT team have digitised some 50 million patient records, which if that was the only project we were taking forward would be a huge undertaking in itself.

We have grasped with both hands, the once in a generation opportunity, to examine every aspect of the way we organise our acute workload and our new approaches are being designed very much around our model of Health and Social Care Integration.

Our new hospital may be located in Dumfries but it is central to the decentralised and localised model of care that we are developing across the region.

So in closing, I am absolutely confident that by December 2017 we will have not only the finest District General Hospital imaginable but also a huge number of staff whose work experience has been enriched by their involvement in this project.

Philip N Jones is Chairman of the Board at NHS Dumfries and Galloway 

September 2016

Island reflections by Heather Currie

Holidays are for fun, relaxation, recharging the batteries, catching up, all things good. But holidays also give time to think and reflect and often holiday situations trigger a thought which may have relevance to a work situation. I think that’s ok, I don’t think I’m pathologically workaholic. I enjoy having time to reflect, whether that be on holiday or other.

heather-jettyA recent holiday in the beautiful west coast, triggered reflection on how we respond to patient’s needs, and perhaps how we could do better.

On the west coast of Mull is a ferry which goes to the tiny island of Ulva. While waiting to take a boat trip out to the Treshnish Isles (home of a huge colony of wonderful puffins), I noticed the sign indicating how to summon the ferry. No regular routine service, just a board with a moveable cover. Move the cover, red board shows, ferryman on Ulva sees red board, ferry sets out. Simples.. Ferry there when needed and when summoned. Receptive and responsive. It made me think whether or not we are receptive and responsive to our patients’ needs and what about the needs of the relatives?  A few examples make me think perhaps not enough?

heather-both-2

In recent times my mother in law sadly suffered from a stroke and was in an acute hospital for several months before being transferred to a Rehab unit and subsequently a nursing home. Being a patient is always a humbling and learning experience, as is being a relative and visitor of a patient. On one visit I was concerned that her finger nails were quite long and dirty. “Mum” could not speak at this stage but since she was always very particular about her appearance, I knew that this would cause her distress and asked the nurse in charge if it was at all possible, please please, thank-you so much…(it felt like asking for anything was a major challenge) could her nails be cut. To my surprise and disappointment, I was told that this was not possible since only two nurses on the ward had had the “training” and when they were on duty it was unlikely that they would have time. Receptive and responsive or too rigidly bound up in rules and protocols of questionable evidence base that basic needs are not met? Thereafter we took it upon ourselves to cut the nails ourselves!

I was very reassured on return to DGRI that this would not happen here and strongly believe that we are more receptive and responsive, but could we do better?

Recently, one of our gynaecology patients who had been diagnosed with a terminal condition was moved between wards four times as her condition deteriorated. As long as her medical and nursing needs were being met, was it fair on her at this sad stage to have so many moves? Did we really think about what was best for her and her family and were we receptive to their needs?

In outpatients, how often do we ask patients to return for a “routine” appointment when they may not need to be seen in six months time, but have problems at a later date? Could we instead be able to respond to their needs and see them or even make telephone contact when really needed?

An elderly gentleman understandably complained because he spent a whole day travelling from the west of the region to Dumfries by patient transport, for a ten minute outpatient appointment to be given the result of a scan. In his own words, “he was not told anything that could not have been told by telephone”.

What routine investigations do we carry out that are of limited clinical benefit, often subjecting patients to yet further unnecessary investigations because of slight irrelevant abnormalities?

When questioning our practice, let’s also be prepared to be curious about that of others in hospitals to which we refer—recently a patient was referred to Glasgow for a gynaecological procedure. The procedure went well but the patient subsequently contacted me concerned that she had been asked to return to Glasgow for a follow up discussion. She wondered if a phone call would be possible in view of the huge inconvenience that this appointment would cause. I wrote to the consultant and asked if this would be possible. His rapid response was enlightening and reassuring: he had always brought patients back to a clinic as routine practice and never considered an alternative. He promised that from then on he would offer all such patients a telephone follow up instead.

Let’s use common sense and be prepared to challenge and bend the rules. Remember the ferry. While we do not have a “ferryman” waiting to respond at all times, we could consider the 4 “Rs”and be –

Responsive not Rigid,

Receptive not Routine.

Heather Currie is an Associate Specialist Gynaecologist and Clinical Director for Women and Sexual Health at NHS Dumfries & Galloway