The NHS is often criticised for not listening enough to the people who use our services.
When everything goes well, it is good to be praised, but I also believe in learning from when things have not gone as expected.
We call this ‘patient experience’ – personal stories patients tell us about their contact with the NHS, whether for treatment, an appointment or any other reasons.
At NHS Doncaster clinical commissioning group, we routinely analyse healthcare data to look at how services are performing.
However, behind the data are the patients who have used those services and their experience in doing so.
Every patient has a story and those stories are valuable sources of information.
Having any treatment is an anxious time for the patient and their family.
It is important the CCG – which has responsibility for monitoring the quality of those services – takes time to listen and learn from what patients tell us so we can make improvements.
We want every patient to have a good experience on every healthcare journey they have with the NHS.
To help us understand the patient’s perspective, we set aside time at our monthly Governing Body meetings to hear a patient’s own story.
They tell us exactly as they see it, good, bad or indifferent.
Some stories have been powerful to hear and some difficult for the patient to relate.
Each patient gives their time freely in the knowledge that we, as the people responsible for organising and providing Doncaster’s NHS services, are listening and keen to learn from them.
Last month, we had a representative from the Doncaster deaf community who, through an interpreter, outlined difficulties people like her have in accessing health services that are geared towards hearing patients.
We are going to work closely with the community to understand better their needs.
Listening to patient stories helps keep me and my CCG colleagues firmly grounded.
Good experiences, in the shape of compliments, indicate which health services are performing well and giving high patient satisfaction.
Complaints and negative feedback may flag up improvements needed.
We have captured a number of patient stories in a new book, a copy of which has been sent to every GP practice in Doncaster for placing in the waiting room.
It sets out what we learned from patients and some of the changes we have made to services as a result.
To see it, visit http://tinyurl.com/dccgyearbook2014
If you have an interesting patient experience story, why not tell us about it.