Posts Tagged ‘nhs’


Customer service? In the NHS?

In Health industry on October 24, 2010 by Danielle Tagged: , ,

KevinMD tweeted a blog post on customer service today. I’ve happily noticed a number of ‘how does this other field inform medical practice’ type tweets from the docs I follow on Twitter, of late. This post piqued my interest because what does the ‘gung ho’ ‘customer is always right’ brand of American customer service (and indeed but maybe to a lesser extent Canadian customer service) have to say to the NHS?

He says that one of the common tenets that a group of successful companies (including Enterprise Rent a car) is:

Employees are “hired for fit.” If a prospective employee doesn’t radiate service, they are re-directed

This clearly isn’t the case with the NHS nor could it be- employees are hired for specialist knowledge and skills and if their customer service isn’t up to scratch, then this is the hundredth thing on the job spec so they stay put.

I overheard a conversation in which somebody was asking why the receptionist was always rude at the doctor’s office. The answer that was given was that they are the chief gatekeepers for the doctor. Having worked with doctors I agree with this. But also having worked with customers, I understand the need to sometimes put up a barrier against a tide of emotional, stressed and often abusive customers…and I worked in a bookstore! So while I am not exactly criticising the apparent lack of customer focus in doctor’s surgeries and hospitals, I think we need an intervention. I am in favour of a customer service focus. I think the current system is based solely on goodwill and signs asking us not to be abusive (similar to the signs at the Post Office pick up window). Staff are clearly overwhelmed as KevinMD writes in another post. We need more doctors, more surgeries and better customer service.

My new doctor’s surgery has a touch screen system to allow patients to ‘check in’ to their appointment and it succeeds in taking people out of the massive queue for the receptionist. People spend less time queuing, aren’t made late for their appointment and hopefully spend less time thinking angry thoughts. This is a great start and will increase goodwill in patients if not in staff as well.

Regents park in October



NHS a ‘brand name’ and oh Tony

In Uncategorized on September 6, 2010 by Danielle Tagged: , ,

I feel utterly disgusted by Tony Blair and his biographical ‘revelations’ that are meant to make us run, salivating to buy a copy of his new book. Freedom of information a bad thing? Gordon Brown useless and you knew it before he took up the reins as Prime Minister? Is it possible for Britain’s smarmy ex-PM to be any more odious? Yes, Tony, you were a mistake, but I didn’t think the NHS was one. Okay- it employs a large number of people, and perhaps a few too many managers. Andrew Lansley is not doing things by half-measures which I intrinsically appreciate. BUT – when I read that PCTs and SHAs have been axed and GPs have been left to sort something out for themselves it felt like April Fools Day. Surprise- instead of money, your employer will now pay you in cheese.

I can’t really go on to what these changes will mean or how they will manifest as it is still a shock and, I suspect, folks with an interest in the UK healthcare system (what shall we call it…) are waiting quietly to hear what will come next.

I don’t think I agree with the following suggestion by Labour MP Grahame Morris (but might be interesting to treat this as a worst case scenario?):

Although the vast majority of GPs will earn most of their money from the National Health Service, they are effectively independent businesses with loose contractual arrangements with the NHS. Therefore, on the face of it, this government is handing billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money straight out of the NHS bank account into the hands of private organisations that will decide what services to provide for patients.

(Sorry – this was a bit political, Alan L)


HLG Conference 2010 – take 2 day 1

In HLG 2010,Uncategorized on July 27, 2010 by africker Tagged: , , , ,

Keeping information centre stage amid changing scenery was the overarching theme for HLG conference last week (see also this from my tHI colleague).  As ever it was a packed couple of days so I am trying to record a few thoughts now before it all gets lost in the day job.  I did tweet at the time but found it very challenging to convey much while also giving concentration to the speaker.  Would have been easier on a laptop rather than on my only moderately smartish phone I suspect. 

Please note I am going to link the presentations where I can – files may be large!  You can find nearly all of them here.

Having been in Suffolk till late the evening before the trip to Salford was challenging.  I arrived just before the opening key Note by Dr Gillian Leng, (COO for NHS Evidence and NICE Deputy CEO).  Her presentation focussed on the wider remit of NICE with relatively little on NHS Evidence.  It was pretty clear that NICE have some significant challenges to deliver the Standards documents that they have been tasked to produced by the White Paper.  Work around Information Pathways looked worth following but raised questions for me over how it would link with Map of Medicine (the technology from which appeared to support it – at least from my distant vision of the slide).  I am sure I was not alone in being disappointed about the absence of reference to how NHS Evidence might better work with the wider NHS knowledge structures.

After a gulped cup of coffee and under a barrage of high volume tannoy announcements (that made an interesting chat with Athens some what difficult)  I headed for the first parallel session.

First up was Kath Wright on the new CRD interface .  It was interesting to get a better picture of their work.  I do not tend to use the native interface for CRD so it is hard to comment on the revised functionality.

Andrew Regan & Emma Shaw told us about how Imperial support online access for NHS staff .   A good example of how options in terms of IT enabled support can be opened up for those bridging the NHS and HE.  A recurring theme at the conference was the workarounds libraries are setting in place due to IT constraints.  In this case you got a feeling of real progress in tackling issues to improve the user experience.

Last up in this session was Richard Parker on implementing RFID .  This was a really valuable talk in terms of covering some of the pitfalls.  It is all too easy to get caught up in the possibilities of such technologies. 

Lunch was good (though sadly sans pudding!) and filled with a quick round of catchups.  A rapid dash through the slightly confusing Lowry building saw me end up back in Parallel Session A around IT rather than one I had planned to attend on IT Literacy. 

In the event I was very glad of my mistake as I caught a great talk from Caroline Storer and colleagues on Collaborative approaches being taken in the Bradford area .  I was particularly interested in the toolkit for Evidence Based Practice.  My heart sank when I saw it was a paper folder (online available though I couldn’t find it in time available today!) but it turns out this was a cunning plan to meet the users and set up what amounts to Hill Report style Team Knowledge Officers.  I also liked there Special Interest Group model – a new way to think about journal clubs (see also the great talk on IMPACTe elsewhere at conference).

After an update on CASH we heard from Katherine Dumenil and Linda Jump about their Knowledge Updating Service .  This is a very slick take on the current awareness portal – ingesting and tagging large numbers of feeds and sites and then presenting it in a flexible form via web, rss and email.  It looked a nice bit of development.  Questions on technical matters where somewhat deflected by the speakers which was a shame.  

A brief break for exhibitors, posters and a donut was much appreciated before the final round of parallel sessions for day 1.  I followed the Collaboration strand.

Gwen Giles and David Law spoke about how they are working together in the Midlands as BASE .  Of particular interest to listeners was how they used external support to make them a more effective network.  Linking together around a shared LMS project was also clearly useful in providing a real must do set of tasks.

Carolyn Smith updated on progress in Scotland .  They are somewhat ahead on implementing the Fast Search technology that underpins the google style NHS Evidence search.  Items of note – support from librarians is integrated into the interface presentation, tools for collaboration are offered, it is Athens integrated.  Question marks for me about the effectiveness of offering access to the bibliographic databases via the Fast Search interface (native interface also available).

The day closed with three plenary talks.  I missed the start of the first one and admit to not getting to grips with it.  Sara Clarke and Zoe Thomas then spoke on what they called the Legitimate Peripheral Participation model for developing professional competence.  It sounded an awful lot like induction to me.  In question was whether an academic qualification prepares people or not for their first role in health.  Peoples experience of “Library School” vary enormously and I think it will always work better for some than others depending on choices made and options offered.  Last in this session was a fascinating talk by Andrew Booth on whether there is evidence for the value of an experienced librarian over a novice.  We need to focus on the things we do beyond just technical search skills as our advantage in these areas is eroding and limited when not looking at the esoteric interfaces we create for ourselves and then inflict on innocent users.

The HLG AGM followed (do read the annual report).  It would be great if we could find a way to make better use of this opportunity rather than just working through the formalities required of HLG as a body.  The accounts show a chance to invest in things members want and some research is taking place to examine the CPD needs of HLG members.  Something I would like to have seen is systematic recording of the talks at conference.  These could then be made available alongside the slides.  This would be a benefit to those who attended but want to refresh their memories and to those who could not attend to give them a flavour of things.  It could be free to members and available for a small cost (or nothing) to others.

The day closed with an excellent dinner, a comic, dancing, extensive discussion and the traditional Manchester summer – torrential rain.


NHS Microsoft licence not renewed

In Copyright,Information industry on July 15, 2010 by africker Tagged: ,

Report from e-health-insider that the NHS has not renewed the £500Million contract with Microsoft for an NHS England wide licence.  Comments highlight a likely issue for those using Sharepoint for their Intranets. 

I cannot help thinking this signals bad things for the NHS Copyright Licence.


Excellence and equity – google in action

In Blogging on Blogging,search engines on July 13, 2010 by africker Tagged: ,

Intrigued to spot how a post on my work blog about the new NHS white paper was a) immediately picked up by Google b) given a time stamp of roughly when I started writing the blog post rather than when I published it and c) given massive prominence.

The post is currently (10am 13 July) first result from Google (above the white paper itself) for a search on  – excellence and equity nhs and the only relevant hit in the first ten for “Excellence and equity” with or without quotes – it seems education already used this particular tag line!  I am sure this will wash out in the next couple of days but nice to be at the top of things.

Much of the content was taken (with permission) from a Bulletin prepared by David Nicholls at East London and the City Alliance Health Intelligence Unit. His posting of the bulletin predated my post by some time (he was obviously in bright and early this morning!) but it is not coming up in Google.  I know their blog is relatively new (my work one started in Aug 2007 – with a trad Hello World post).  We also got a lot of traffic and links when we created a similar update post around the release of the Darzi report.


Real increases in NHS spending supported by new coalition

In Health industry,Uncategorized on May 12, 2010 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , ,

Slightly surprisingly, given that you’d thought that the Tories would use their coalition with the Lib Dems to get out of their policy of “ring fencing” the NHS budget, an FT blog is reporting that the coalition will indeed increase NHS spending in real terms for each year of the parliament:

“The parties agree that funding for the NHS should increase in real terms in each year of the next parliament, while recognising the impact that this decision would have on other departments.”

I guess the “impact on other departments” is that they’ll all have to put up with even bigger cuts than they were already expecting, but it looks like the NHS is sitting pretty.


Politics! (oh no!)

In Health industry,Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 by Alan Lovell Tagged: , , , ,

We don’t do politics here at (the) health informaticist of course, as these things can easily fall into ranting, and we don’t, of course, do ranting…

However I thought it at least worthwhile, and safely non-party political, to pass on the observation that the HSJ has made, that apart from the Health Secretary himself Andy Burnham, all of the other Labour health ministers have lost their seats: Health minister Mike O’Brien was ousted from Warwickshire North, Care services minister Phil Hope lost at Corby, and Public health minister Gillian Merron was booted out (just) at Lincoln. The Conservative shadow health team, on the other hand, remains intact: Anne Milton (Guildford), Mike Penning (Hemel Hempstead), Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley (Cambridgeshire), Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness), and Stephen O’Brien (Eddisbury).

Also, looking at various reports in the HSJ, it seems to be a trend that wherever a local candidate was able to play the “save our NHS” or “save our hospital” or “save our A&E” etc card succesfully, they did awfully well in the polls. For exampe Alan Campbell won at Tynemouth after “challenging the Tories over leaflets suggesting accident and emergency and other services at North Tyneside General Hospital could be cut if Labour won”, the Lib Dems took one of their target seats, Burnley, after their leader Nick Clegg promised that an A&E centre would be re-opened, while a Conservative, Mr Gummer, won in Ipswich after he opposed unpopular plans for regional reconfiguration. Certainly in my constituency, both the competing parties took great pains to point out how they had “saved” the local hospital.

Whatever else may be said about the shifting, or not so shifting, loyalties of the British electorate, there seems to remain a strong emotional attachment to the NHS. Play that card well, and you’re half-way there…