What hospitals could learn from hairdressers!

Today was a busy day on Planet George…I had a day’s work to do, a routine follow up appointment at the local hospital and this evening I went to get my barnet done. So you probably all know about my tendency to over analyse by now but today presented the perfect opportunity…two very different experiences, hospital appointment and haircut, one arguably more important than the other but neither really experiences I would actively look forward to.

I have never been a fan of going to the hairdressers! Something about it makes me stressy – not sure whether it’s the smells, the sights, the banal chat, the idea of such self-indulgence, the fact that you surrender control to someone else; it could be all or any of the above but trust me I’m not usually a fan.

Neither am I a big fan of hospitals, I used to be fairly apathetic about them but I’ve spent far too much time in them over the last couple years and now there is something about them that makes me stressy – not sure whether it’s the smells, the sights, surrendering control….you get the picture; I’m not a big fan.

So today I had an appointment for 11.30am in the ENT (ear, nose and throat) outpatients clinic. I arrived on time (despite every bit of me telling me not to bother – I have never been seen on time in about three years), my details were checked by someone who was professional but also I’d say professionally disinterested. I was told to take a seat and wait to be called. So I did….over an hour later my name was called and I got to see my consultant, Mr Reece. Luckily given my previous experience I had taken work with me and actually got loads done (great place to catch up on reading – no mobile signal either – perfect) and also luckily Mr Reece is a lovely man, very personable, sense of humour, treats you with dignity and fronted up his lateness as he shook my hand. So all is well.

Except it’s not really. Our hospital was proudly displaying posters that rank it in the top 25% of hospitals on customer feedback surveys and apparently one of the things patients most valued was their prompt treatment! Laughable, really…it was kind of insulting to have that displayed in this clinic. An elderly man had a chat with me while we were waiting, he had also been kept waiting over half an hour and as someone else’s name was called he mumbled “I wouldn’t mind if they just told you”. However they must know that all is not well because as I turned to enter the consulting room I noticed a whiteboard on the wall. This whiteboard is clearly used to display the wait times, and how delayed clinics are running. This is great, a fantastic intervention that serves to keep patients informed and should reduce the stress levels; in fact it would even have allowed me to go and get a coffee and come back in half an hour or so…it would also have kept the elderly gentleman informed. Brilliant.

Except there’s a problem with this scenario, it’s truly great in theory but it’s fairly awful in it’s application!

The board is on the wall right outside the consulting room…about four chairs are alongside that wall, the rest are further down the corridor or off a side corridor. Worse still the board is behind you as you arrive at the reception desk so the vast majority of people will miss it. I know it’s there, I’ve seen it before, I’m reasonably switched on but I missed it this time.

So what has this got to do with hairdressers I hear you ask. Well when I arrived at my hairdressers this evening, Lucy (my hairdresser) was ready and waiting for me; however this isn’t always the case. Sometimes I have to wait and there are several things that always happen: someone says hello, checks who I am (if they don’t know me), confirms my appointment, offers me a drink and lets me know how long I’m likely to wait. So there we have it – I’m instantly less stressy, a smile and a hello, and most importantly the information.

Don’t get me wrong I’m not expecting a coffee when I arrive at ENT but a friendly smile would be nice, and most importantly the information I need. The reception desk is opposite the whiteboard, all it would take is for the receptionist to take an extra 20secs to let me know that Mr Reece was running an hour late and I could have gone and got a coffee. Unfortunately I suspect that the board was well intentioned but is now just used to cover people’s backs, so when someone else complained it was pointed at and they were told that the information was over there. Which it is.

So there you have it my musing for the day. In the spirit of being constructive I’ll be submitting my experience (or at least a suggestion about the board) to patientopinion over the next couple of days and if anyone is interested my fabulous hairdresser Lucy works at Stylz in Torquá – I’d highly recommend her, don’t prejudge them on their website 🙂

5 thoughts on “What hospitals could learn from hairdressers!

  1. That’s a very good point, I hope somone takes note!! I don’t know if it’s the job that attracts that specific personality type or if it’s actively recruited for, but anyone on a reception seems to be a jobsworth these days! Could just be my narrow experience 🙂

  2. But why is Mr Reece running an hour late? Would Lucy ever do that? Somehow I doubt it – ten minutes, maybe 15 while you’re enjoying the coffee. But a whole hour late? You’d walk across the road to their competitors.
    So would you dare turn up an hour late? I know people who’ve turned up 5 minutes late for an appointment – and been told they were too late and why should a doctor wait for them. They were marked down as DNAs (didn’t attend).
    Would be interesting to hear the hospital’s response to that solution for the lateness of their clinic times. Please do suggest it in your post on http://www.patientopinion.org.uk

  3. Thanks for the comments guys.

    Jason – I wasn’t suggesting she was a jobsworth, she was very professional, just seemed to be lacking any human interest – which I’d understand at the end of a long shift but this was 11.30 at an outpatient clinic – maybe she was waiting on her coffee break!

    KM – You have a point, Lucy wouldn’t be an hour late and to be honest I’m surprised that an outpatient clinic could be an hour late that early in the day. I think there is an additional problem in human behaviour – if you’ve been kept waiting, you then feel the need to “get your money’s worth” and perhaps take more time than is required! The irritating thing for me is that I am nearly always in and out in 10mins….and I’d rather come at the start of the day and just get it over and done with. I’ll post about the patient opinion now in a tic 🙂

  4. Yes they should have told you that running behind. Why does it happen? I’ll risk saying that hairdressing is more predictable than ENT. And Lucy maybe has a client booked every 45 mins while Mr Reece has one every 10 minutes. I intensely dislike working with 10 min appointments. I’m delighted when a patient comes with something simple as I have a chance to catch up. If we are really to involve patients in decisions and management, empower them, listen to them, just give them the space to tell theory story then 10 mins is not enough. If you want to be treated in a privatised NHS where you will be wooed for your custom as you are at the hairdressers your wish may come true sooner than you think:) I know that is nor the point you are making but its coming.

  5. Thanks for commenting Anne Marie.

    Trust me I’m not advocating for a privatised NHS…used to live in Ireland where paid for services, rarely improved things.

    It frustrates me because surely it should be relatively easy to monitor an ‘average’ clinic? I assume it’s targets that drive appointment duration times? Also assume that it’s ‘better’ to keep waiting lists down – even if patients have to wait to be seen on the day?

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