Attitudes 'shifting' after 'listening' sessions

Chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar (left), chief executive Carole Heatly and London consultant Tim Keogh. Photo: Linda Robertson
Chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar (left), chief executive Carole Heatly and London consultant Tim Keogh. Photo: Linda Robertson

Since the "listening sessions'' at Southern District Health Board, staff attitudes have started to shift, chief executive Carole Heatly says.

London consultant Tim Keogh, chief medical officer Dr Nigel Millar and Ms Heatly presented results from listening sessions and surveys to the Otago Daily Times this week.

Staff asked for more time with patients and some complained about under-resourcing of services.

Ms Heatly said she wanted to allow staff more time with patients by reprioritising tasks, and that was the next step in the process.

But since the sessions two months ago, the exercise has already paid off, Ms Heatly and Mr Keogh say.

"I've had some feedback from some of the people who were at the sessions to say they are already starting to do it,'' Ms Heatly said.

"I have seen people who have reported back that people are speaking up when they weren't before,'' Mr Keogh added.

Ms Heatly said she wanted the board to be a place where staff learnt from mistakes, praised colleagues for their success, and felt able to make improvements.

A senior clinician bringing baking for colleagues, and staff needing to "stalk'' senior managers for responses, are examples of staff feedback.

Staff also complained about bullying, rudeness, negativity, and IT issues.

"I think this is difficult for the organisation to hear ... but it has to be heard.'' Mr Keogh said.

About 2500 of about 4500 staff participated in a survey or listening session.

Positive feedback outweighed the negative from both patients and staff, Mr Keogh said.

He said the board would not release hard figures from the exercise until another survey was carried out at some stage to give a valid comparison.

Patients complained about food, noise, staff being in a hurry, communication and lack of co-ordination. But they had a lot of positive things to say about the skill and kindness of staff.

Mr Keogh said studies showed clinicians tended to overestimate the amount of time they spent listening to patients.

"It might sound trite to say `listen more' but listening more is a really important part of the clinical engagement.''

Ms Heatly said that in her 38 years in the health sector, food, parking and noise at night prompted the most patient complaints. But she had taken note of the prominence of food complaints in patient feedback.

"They didn't like it so they're letting us know.''

Patient surveys were left on patient trays, which might have put people in mind of food when filling them out.

"It might have been that they were more aware of food when they completed the survey,'' Ms Heatly said.

In recent months, the board has dealt with numerous complaints and media reports about dissatisfaction with Compass Group, after the multinational took over hospital kitchens.

Mr Keogh said he was struck by the number of patients who knew about the health funding model.

"I've never been to a place before where they've talked about funding in that way, such a detailed understanding of how funding works.''

Mr Keogh said he would stay in touch with the board from London to assist with implementation.



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