Compassion in NHS is big news this week. The Francis report is out, and all branches of healthcare are considering its implications. This article discusses the fragility of compassion once the environment becomes stressful. When resources ( time, nurses, cleaning staff, etc ) are in short supply then group survival mechanisms kick in.
It’s the old nature vs nurture debate, and it had its routes in the biological evolution of societies and culture. Tribes of people & staff develop ways of differentiating themselves from the people who are not in their tribe. This is done through words (jargon & abbreviations), appearance (uniforms), and rules or regulations which may not be obvious to the uninitiated.
Regional accents have been attributed to this phenomena. As the piece says the same hormone that is responsible for increased compassion in a mother to an animal like her self, can cause aggression towards people who are not like her.
Maybe if healthcare can find ways of reducing the barriers & improving the flow of information, knowledge and understanding then compassion will stand a chance.
I have read that the Francis report could mean minimum staffing levels are prescribed for hospital wards & midwifery units. These are environments where a body of work is share between a defined workforces at the same time. What should the implications be for jobs that involve one individual seeing a series of people in a clinic.
Who decides on the optimum length of appointment or what can be achieved within it?
The department of health is currently negotiating with doctors leaders about how to change the GP contract. It looks like they plan on more work being added to the current list of “things that your GP could or should be doing for you”.
Proposals include discussing exercise or diet with patients who have long term health conditions. It’s a good thing – but it takes time , and will not be done better because I have an extra box to tick.
Asking the health care system to do more of something – without telling it what it can stop doing, in order to free up time to do the new thing, will increase stress.
Our society needs to consider what it wants from its health service & then resource this adequately. Greater compassion will emerge more naturally when patients can build up relationships of trust , over time, with their health care providers. This needs time.
Time is money – but it’s worth it ! It’s also pretty difficult to measure the financial value of courtesy or having a polite & friendly receptionist.
Time & good staffing levels & communication with patients in all forms including social media , can help fix the problems identified in the Francis Report 2013
Please feel free to comment below.
Dr Stuart Berry @stuartberry1