What’s in a #name?

Five years since its launch, the hellomynameis campaign is still promoting compassionate care

Five years since its launch, the hellomynameis campaign is still promoting compassionate, person-centred care

Campaign co-founders Kate Granger (centre) and her husband Chris Pointon.
Picture: Barney Newman

There is a brightness in Chris Pointon’s voice as he recalls the day that the #hellomynameis campaign was born. He was at the bedside of his wife, Kate Granger, who was being treated for cancer. And it’s fair to say she wasn’t feeling wholly positive about her experience as a patient.

‘It was the 30th of August 2013 and Kate and I were talking through the day. Kate was in hospital, and there had been a distinct lack of introductions (from staff). I suppose she was moaning about it, and I just said to her: “Look darling, you need to stop whingeing or do something about it”.’

‘This is such a simple idea that makes such a big difference’

Chris Pointon, co-founder of the #hellomynameis campaign

That gentle banter between husband and wife was to grow into something that now has an international reach. The campaign asks front-line NHS staff to make a pledge to introduce themselves to their patients. The term #hellomynameis, developed from a throwaway suggestion by Mr Pointon, now appears on badges, posters, flyers and even hospital furnishings (see box) in healthcare settings across the UK and beyond.

Kate Granger's campaign has been
taken up in at least 20 countries.
Picture: Barney Newman

Campaign goes worldwide

Dr Granger died from cancer in July 2016, aged 34, less than three years after she launched the campaign on Twitter. In that time she had qualified and started work as a consultant geriatrician, was awarded an MBE, gave countless talks on the campaign, wrote a book about her experiences and, along with her husband, raised more than £250,000 for the Yorkshire Cancer Centre.

In May 2014, NHS England and NHS Employers launched the annual compassionate care awards in her name. The #hellomynameis campaign was soon supported by more than 400,000 nurses, doctors and other healthcare staff in at least 90 NHS organisations in England.

Now it operates in at least 20 countries worldwide. Last year, Dr Granger was named the third most influential person in the history of the NHS as it celebrated its 70th birthday, and a play inspired by the couple toured the UK.

In its first five years, #hellomynameis gathered pledges from not only healthcare professionals and leaders but also politicians and celebrities, ranging from Theresa May to Kylie Minogue.

So why did the hashtag-based campaign have such a wide reach – and what is its ongoing effect now it has passed the five-year mark?

The importance of the personal approach

Paul Jebb, now deputy director of nursing at Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust, became a supporter of the campaign shortly after its launch. At the time he was assistant director of nursing and head of patient experience at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. He became an early adopter of #hellomynameis on Twitter – for which he was occasionally ribbed. ‘People would say, “Is your name hellomynameisPaul?”. But actually, having it in my email signature as well had quite a big impact because people asked me about it.’

Mr Jebb invited Dr Granger to visit his trust and was impressed by her commitment and that of Mr Pointon. ‘At that time we were looking at the importance of the personal approach and breaking down barriers around care,’ he says.

‘If you introduce yourself you are treating someone as a person, not a thing’

Paul Jebb, deputy director of nursing, Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust

Although the response to the campaign was very extremely positive, there were some who felt it wasn’t necessary, Mr Jebb says. ‘Some people said they thought people should be doing it anyway – but they weren’t doing it all the time. If you introduce yourself you are treating someone as a person, not a thing – you could see people starting to think differently.’

Mr Pointon says he and his wife were astonished that the campaign took off so quickly and he is determined to keep up the momentum. ‘The initial reaction was huge, from across the world,’ he says.

As a fervent supporter of the NHS and its staff, Mr Pointon knows it is not always easy to remember and respond to every initiative. ‘I understand that people are under pressure and have a lot of things on their mind. But this is such a simple idea that makes such a big difference. I think it helps save time in the long term if patients feel more comfortable.’

Support in Scotland

Scotland's health secretary Jeane Freeman, a former nurse, says the Scottish Government and NHS continue to be strong supporters of the #hellomynameis campaign, and that it has played an important role in promoting person-centred, compassionate care.

‘Kate’s legacy will be long-lasting’

Jeane Freeman, Scotland’s health secretary

‘By encouraging health and care staff to start conversations by telling people their name, the campaign supports a human connection between one person who is vulnerable and another who wishes to help. This helps build trust in difficult circumstances,’ Ms Freeman says.

‘The campaign’s name badges are now common across our NHS. Kate’s legacy will be long-lasting.’

Mr Pointon and Dr Granger with high-profile supporter Kylie Minogue.

Building on the legacy

The campaign continues to take up much of Mr Pointon’s time and energy. At first, he took a sabbatical from his job with a major retailer, but now he is back at work and when he isn’t giving talks is working on his own book. This hard work has its rewards, however.

‘Since Kate died I’ve been travelling the world and the UK promoting the campaign. Seeing it in action – for example, seeing people’s badges in a hospital in Sydney – really made me think that gosh, this is really something.’

Mr Jebb warns against complacency and allowing the campaign to lose focus. ‘Nurses took to the campaign like fish to water, but sometimes people still need a reminder,’ he says. ‘We need to take Kate’s legacy and continue to make it real.’

Matron Emma Rogers: ‘There’s been a great response from staff and patients.’ 

Why just saying your name helps improve the experience

The magic of a name should never be underestimated. Whether it’s service users being called by the name they prefer, or staff introducing themselves by name to patients – or to each other – it all goes to help improve the experience of patients and staff.

That’s why Emma Rogers was so keen to roll out #hellomynameis patient boards at Stockport NHS Foundation Trust, as a tangible part of the organisation’s effort to support the campaign more broadly.

The boards, placed next to beds at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport, have space to note the name of the patient, the nurse caring for them, their consultant and expected discharge date. They also have sections for more information about the patient and, crucially, what is important to them.

‘Patients can feel vulnerable and frightened. Introducing yourself by name can help reduce anxiety and build a rapport’

Emma Rogers, matron, Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport

That the boards are emblazoned with the #hellomynameis logo only emphasises the importance of using names, says Ms Rogers, matron for patient experience and quality improvement. ‘Patients can feel vulnerable and frightened. Introducing yourself to them by name can help reduce anxiety, and it can help build a rapport.

‘Introducing yourself – and calling patients by their preferred name – is part of person-centred care. I’ve also noticed that when staff introduce themselves when speaking to colleagues the atmosphere is more pleasant.’

Bedside boards across the trust

Although the trust adopted #hellomynameis in 2015, Ms Rogers noticed when she started to work there in 2017 that the campaign had lost momentum. ‘I saw that Chris (Pointon) was doing a tour and asked him to come and talk to us, and we relaunched in April 2018, emphasising the importance of introducing yourself to everyone,’ she says.

The patient boards were commissioned as part of that process, thanks to money from the trust’s own charitable funds. Having the same boards throughout the trust gives a consistent and professional look, she says, and they provide patients, families and staff with important information. ‘It means that patients know the name of their nurse – they don’t just have to say “the nurse” or point.

‘We also use the boards to show information about a patient – someone at risk of having a fall will have a leaf symbol, for example, and someone with dementia will have a forget-me-not.’

The section on what is most important to the patient is also illuminating, she says. It can be as simple as liking a cup of tea before going to bed, or as revealing as someone wanting to feel safe. She also recalls two patients who had said the most important thing was to get home to their dogs. This sparked conversation between them, and improved the experience of their hospital stay.

Patients know who their nurse is

The boards are constantly evaluated via monthly patient surveys, which have shown that patients are now more likely to know the name of their consultant and the nurse who is looking after them, and their use is part of an ‘accreditation’ system to ensure quality and consistent care. Next steps include place mats for patients with the #hellomynameis logo. 

‘There’s been a great response from staff and patients,’ Ms Rogers says. ‘It also shows that something as simple as introducing yourself is very important to patients, and I’d like to thank Kate and Chris for starting the campaign.’

Jennifer Trueland is a health journalist

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