www.publicinvolvement.org.uk

Notes from the field of public involvement

Tuesday, 18 January 2005

Got a Little Letter

One of the things that distinguishes us, we think, from other consultants and consultancies is the amount of experience we have of the roles and jobs done by many of the people we advise and assist. The most recent example of this that you may have seen was Val Moore’s appointment last year as a non-executive director of St Georges hospital in Wandsworth.

The other experience that we can draw on is the universal experience of being a user of the Health Service. We want our blog to reflect and so we offer the little account below of one M-A-C partner’s latest encounter with the Health Service.

 

GOT A LITTLE LETTER – MAIL IT TO MY LOCAL GP

I got a letter today – a copy of the letter to my GP after a hospital appointment to take a look at a rogue bit of skin on my back. Two bits of paper – one unsigned and in classic ‘imposed upon’ style about the Copying Letters policy. “As a result of the Trust’s implementation of the Department of Health’s Copying Letters policy, we enclose a copy of the letter sent from the hospital regarding your care”. I see – nothing to do with passive old you then and what on earth is a Copying Letters policy?

Why not, “We believe as a Trust that many of the people we see are interested in what we have done and what we have told your GP. So you will find enclosed a copy of the letter we sent about your care.” A name at the end of the letter would be nice.

Is this hard? The NHS has yet to learn or does know but cannot do it, that everything that touches the customer needs to demonstrate that customer’s value. Benchmark the Egg website and letters where corporate brand discipline maintains a style that is the Egg style with customers – direct, human, modern, informal, clear. Writing letters to users is not a minor skill subset for administrative staff.

Reading other people’s correspondence is one of my minor and enjoyable vices and so reading the actual GP letter was fun – officially sanctioned eavesdropping complete with little extra projects just to make sure that it was not all too easy so ensuring interest and involvement. The task set was to decode what the cryptic ‘between us doctors’ notation ‘BCC’ was? Off to netdoctor or dermatology.co.uk. It was the disguise for the dread word C*nc*r but not in a ‘two weeks to live’ way.

Conclusions? Good idea presented in the NHS usual Eeyore style – where no news is good news and everything is done because “we are forced to do it and don’t blame us for a scruffy black and white photocopy because this is all costing us a fortune and we don’t suppose for a minute that you are really that interested and if you are, don’t tell me - another of those smart-aleck patients who spend more time asserting their rights than taking their pills and come to mention it, losing a bit of weight wouldn’t do you any harm either”.

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