SINCE when did issuing simple pleasantries become such a rare event that thousands of pounds have to be spent getting us to use them? Or, more to the point, getting NHS staff to use them?
Thankfully, this is not a “have a nice day” campaign. That greeting is about as meaningful as a call centre telling you that your business is important to them.
No, this is an idea launched for all the right reasons by hospital consultant Dr Kate Granger. She has tragically become a patient herself, discovering three years ago that she was terminally ill with a rare and aggressive form of cancer.
She has been disgusted to find that, at frequent points throughout her care, the staff treating her could not be bothered to say hello and tell her who they are. Even the doctor who told her that her cancer had spread did not introduce himself – and did not look her in the eye.
That is an awful, upsetting and a terrible indictment on the caring professions.
In response Dr Granger has launched the “Hello my name is…” campaign. It calls on all NHS staff to introduce themselves to patients and is being supported by more than 90 NHS organisations.
The Scottish government has now said it will give £40,000 to NHS boards to roll out the campaign across the country. Now, hang on a minute. That’s £40,000 to get people who are already supposed to wear a badge identifying themselves, to tell a patient that their name is Tom, Dick or Harry/Harriet?
The Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust is among those who have published “tariffs” listing the cost of their operations. Presumably they will be fairly similar in Scotland, whether or not the English are subsidising their health care.
The cost of a short-stay hip replacement is £7,613, of a minor hernia operation £2,155 and of simple keyhole surgery £1,932. So for the cost of spreading the word about something that should be second nature to all involved, the NHS could carry out five hip replacements, 18 hernia ops or 20 investigations by keyhole surgery and have change to spare.
And let’s go back to the main issue here. Dr Granger found that people weren’t introducing themselves to her when she most needed it. She wants Tom to say: “Hello, I’m Tom”. Followed by something along the lines of: “I’m the duty nurse today and will be looking after you.” How do NHS boards “roll” that “out”? Surely simple publicity around Dr Granger’s message is all it will take.
It’s an insult to most of those who work in our hospitals that any government or health board thinks it has to spend significant amounts of money to make this happen.
Mind you, it would also help if the badges that most staff wear were big enough for their names to be read when they do forget to introduce themselves.
Kevan Blackadder is a media consultant who runs Blackadder Media Limited. Kevan was previously editor of the Gloucestershire Echo and assistant editor of the Bristol Post. A Cumbrian who moved to the South West “for a couple of years” in the 1980s, he can’t quite believe he’s been there ever since.