In 2013, when the very first NHS Change Day took place, the staff-inspired social movement saw 189,000 pledges made, with the goal being to make the changes that matter in the everyday workings of such a mammoth organisation.
It’s difficult to pick out particular pledges when so many were made, but in general terms it was heart-warming stuff and came largely from what is a genuine passion for the NHS and making improvements to it. Small scale but admirable examples included a clinician sampling children’s medicine to better understand how it tasted and a receptionist promising to smile more.
There really is a need for change within the NHS and seeing its employees and others promising to try and make a difference is genuinely encouraging – yet it still leaves the feeling that there is so much more that needs to be done and a whole culture that needs altering.
While the drive for change from the grassroots that’s epitomised by the NHS Change Day movement is great on the surface, at Fletchers we see many cases of negligence which have been caused by deep-rooted issues that arguably require action at the highest levels of the NHS.
These are the cases where things have gone badly wrong, where there are whole systems of care which haven’t worked and long-standing reasons for failings.
In addition to well-meaning events such as NHS Change Day, perhaps the focus should be on listening to the complaints of patients regarding their treatment and rectifying the problems which have caused suffering.
There is something significantly wrong when people don’t feel it’s worth making a complaint because they don’t think they will be listened to. Our recent survey of 2,000 patients showed that to be the case and has further revealed a lack of confidence in the workings of the NHS.
It’s true that confidence can be restored bit by bit through the actions of those who choose to take part in NHS Change Day and we should all applaud efforts to make even a small difference. But it’s going to take an awfully long time to do it in that way. What’s needed is a fundamental change in attitude and culture in the upper echelons of the organisation – an upheaval covering the systems and procedures which fail the very people we help here at Fletchers. It can be done – but it’s a massive challenge.