Notes from the field of public involvement

Monday, 11 September 2006

Do Not Disturb by John Launer

We have been talking recently on the blog about patient feedback and this article is a wonderful example of what we might call mediated feedback – Dr John Launer is associate director of the London Deanery and writes here as a clinician/ researcher empathising with how the patients of a certain GP might feel when sitting in the waiting room. 

John feels 'desolate' at the negative and hectoring tone of the notices on the wall and around the reception desk. "Eleven 'don'ts' and not one 'please'." One example will do "Don't compromise your care by asking the doctor to deal with more than one problem". The message being conveyed in John Launer's view is "We are afraid" and "Please remember that you are here to make us feel good, not the other way around. Please do not challenge us because, in reality, we are too vulnerable to cope."

My M-A-C thought with a complaint handling hat on was what price local resolution of complaints? Here is a clue to the difficulties many GPs and their staff face in dealing with complaints - resistance and denial in the face of patient problems is indeed a sign of vulnerability and fear.

This is an attitude which we took into account when devising the encounters we filmed for the complaint handling training CD-Rom circulated to primary care staff in Wales. This supplemented the detailed written guidance in the NHS Wales complaint handling guidelines with some case histories drawn in part from Andrew Craig's files when he was a complaints convener. This has been out since earlier this year. Primary care staff in Wales have reacted favourably to it and further distribution is planned for example to complaint advocates in the Welsh Community Health Councils.

For more details on the CD-Rom and its approach and availability please contact publicpatientinvolvement@wales.gsi.gov.uk. The package is distributed at no charge and is intended for healthworkers in Wales and keyed to their complaint handling guidelines. However the filmed scenarios show behaviours that transcend national boundaries and lie at the root of complaints everywhere.

Colin Adamson | (Problem occured connecting to database: The server requested authentication method unknown to the client