Noelle breathes and blinks like you and me…but she is made of rubber and costs £40,000. Noelle is a state of the art training aid for staff at Kingston Hospital and I had a chance to watch the team using her to practise giving urgent care to pregnant women.
I recently spent a fascinating week connecting at Kingston hospital. It was my second week out connecting and my second time shadowing staff in a maternity unit - in June I went to St Thomas’s and chose to go back to maternity in order to compare the same service in two different hospitals.
Kingston is a busy district general hospital delivering around 6000 babies a year in an affluent area where women are generally well educated and informed. St Thomas’s is a big, inner London hospital, equally busy, with a diverse but often poorer local population and lots of overseas visitors. It is clear though that staff in both hospitals are passionate about what they do – many of the staff have been there for years. There were lots of smiles and laughs in both, which is an important way of coping with the pressure.
Going above and beyond
Staff at Kingston, just like at St Thomas’s, go above and beyond to help patients and this often means much more than dealing with clinical care needs. For example, at Kingston they have a bereavement midwife to support families of stillborn babies. The bereavement midwife can help to organise a baby’s funeral, taking the strain off grieving parents at a very difficult time. Midwives in the community spend a lot of time checking mums are safe and well, putting them in touch with other support services, particularly if they are at risk of post natal depression.
So, what did I learn?
Spending time at Kingston opened my eyes to the tough job of balancing patient choice with what the NHS is able to provide.
It was great to see Kingston using the Friends and Family Test to get quick and clear patient feedback about maternity services. They used iPads which were simple to use and captured the information there and then. As NHS England will be starting a review shortly, I can share my observations with them.
Kingston has a great approach to using patient complaints to improve care too. They produce regular themed reports for their Board who use the insight to make changes in the hospital. Complaints is one of the policy areas I look after so it was very helpful to see this way of working in action.
What can I take back to my own work in the Department?
After my first connecting experience I said I would apply two questions to my own work from now on: how does this benefit patients, and how does it affect staff?
From my time at Kingston and St Thomas’s, I can see even more clearly the benefits of getting patient feedback in lots of ways, both in ‘real time’ like the Friends and Family Test, and also through complaints. Both give vital insights in to how to improve the service the NHS provides, helping staff provide better care which leads to happier patients who feel their needs are being met. And that is something we all want to see.