NHS Food and Customer Care – Guest Blog, Jay Dodson

(This is a guest blog from my Old Bull & Bush compadre, Jay Dodson, and his recent stay in a local hospital.  And as he says, if everyone was out one meal earlier, then we could save millions.  It isn’t rocket science.  I also concur completely in his assertion that backside covering is too much of the focus in the NHS,  and other healthcare providers.  It prevents good care – what gets measured gets done.  And if you measure the wrong things…people make it fit to what is measured… (waiting time in A&E causes ambulances not to be used efficiently – patient in an ambulance doesn’t start their 4 hour wait until they cross the threshold. So they stack up outside in ambulances  Absolute imbecility)

In a recent posting of soft skills for hard times, Phil was discussing an evening learning from the experiences of Sarah Wollaston who chairs the Health Committee in the House of Commons. She had posed the question “have any of you spent a night in a cell?”

After a recent two night spell as a guest of the (I)NHS – the (Inter)National Health Service, I would like to pose the question “have any of you spent a night in a hospital bed?”

Jay doing team stuff...

Jay doing team stuff…

OK – so this was only my second experience as an inmate, and the first was nearly 40 years ago! The staffing at the hospital I visited was truly international – multi racial, and multi-cultural through necessity, rather than a diversity policy I’m sure – but I have to say that with one notable exception the customer service and care levels were superb throughout – committed and caring people with natural high quality inter personal skills. Unfortunately the one exception was the first person I met, as I checked into the reception area at 7 am with a nervous but cheery “good morning” – to be greeted with “take a seat and fill in your menu request for later”! What I had been expecting was a calming and confidence enhancing, welcome and summary of what was likely to happen before going for my operation!

After a spell under general anaesthetic, where an excellent surgeon appears to have done a great piece of work and a short spell in a recovery ward, I was fortunate to be transferred to a newly refurbished ward – E bay on Redlands Ward – where as far as I know, nobody was bidding for my newly repaired body. My experiences over the next 36 hours really do make me wonder if the NHS has yet managed to get their priorities right.

My ward was full of mature people, who were recovering from elective surgery – and I’m sure their shared priority was to be fit enough to return home as quickly as possible. The caring good humour of all the staff I met was a great start, although I believe that it’s a great shame that the most highly qualified nursing staff spend far more time on patient administration and “arse covering” than they do on patient care. My deepest disappointment was the food. Overcooked and flavourless food served cold just cannot be the right way to promote recovery. Just imagine a scenario where even in a short stay environment, every patient’s stay could be shortened by one meal – because they had been fed on well balanced, well-cooked nutritious attractive and tasty food – no extra budget required per head, because they go home sooner. Not to mention the knock on benefits of more bed space available, shorter waiting lists, and happier healthier patients.

Now transfer that scenario to longer stay wards, where good food could shorten stays by even more significant time frames. I would love to be involved in an experiment to produce good food in small satellite kitchens serving a small number of wards, and contrast the health results with the failing model of contract caterers providing such an essential promoter of recovery on an entirely inadequate budget. Is this another TV show idea Phil?

Oh and as a final thought, shouldn’t a ward of nearly 30 people have access to more than one bed pan?! The lack of multiple bed pans (which are after all just cheap bits of plastic), stole so much time of highly trained nursing staff one night that could have been far better utilised with enhanced patient care.

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