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Would you recommend your hospital to a friend?

The devil is in the detail – and especially relevant in patient feedback writes Wendy Johnson

The devil is in the detail – and is especially relevant in patient feedback, writes Wendy Johnson


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It is only from speaking to our patients, their carers and family about their health service experience can we make positive changes and provide a quality service that meets the needs of our patients. This is particularly true when relating to the experience of people with learning disabilities who sometimes struggle to tell their stories and have their voices heard.

Feedback mechanisms such as ‘friends and family’ cards that are given out following contact with NHS hospitals, only tend to focus on the functional aspects of care – ‘I’ve tried to find information on your website about impotence but nothings coming up’ – rather than on the relational aspects of care which really matter to people.

People want to be treated with dignity, respect, be kept well informed about what is happening and be included in decision-making and care plans. If the rooms are clean, and the right body part is removed, well that’s a welcome bonus.

Recommendations in the feedback

When I asked Rachel if she would ‘recommend our hospital to a friend’ which is the term written on our generic feedback card she said ‘no’ despite having a positive experience there recently. 

When asked why not Rachael said: ‘That would mean I would want my friend to be sick so why would I recommend she go there?’ Good point, well made and a perfect example of how the system disenfranchises the very people we need to hear so much more from.

I know of a case locally where someone with a learning disability was found collapsed in a side street and, when asked in the emergency department how he was feeling, he said ‘run down’ and repeated the phrase several times. The medical plan to test for anaemia was markedly changed once someone noticed tyre marks on the man’s legs.

The devil is in the detail – never forget to look for it.


About the author

Wendy Johnson is head of safeguarding adults at risk and nursing lead for learning disabilities at Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Swindon – and she writes about life with her daughter Rachael, who has autism

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