Today’s columnist, Dr Mary: Difference real care makes

Nurse talking to a patient in a noisy ward with lots of machines.
Nurse talking to a patient in a noisy ward with lots of machines.
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I have talked to a few people recently who have been in hospital.

The first lady was remembering the birth of her first child.

She had a long labour, a Caesarean and felt really unwell and in pain.

She was in her room at night feeling distraught, when a nurse came in.

The nurse helped her sit up a bit, plumped up the pillows, got her a drink, held her hand and reassured her that things would be OK.

She felt really cared for and safe and managed to sleep.

The next day she felt so much better and several years on is still grateful for simple care and love provided by that nurse.

Another lady was telling me about the care her husband received for a serious illness.

She told me how he was given everything medically necessary – all the latest drugs and interventions – and yet there was a lack of feeling cared for and listened to.

Simple things that could have made life easier were missed.

Sometimes it would have just been nice to be able to talk and ask questions without a time limit, or have someone see them as real people with real lives, rather than an interesting illness.

A man I know has recently been diagnosed with angina and had to have investigations done.

He told me how it felt like everyone was doing their job as if to tick boxes.

There was little eye contact with staff, and a feeling that how he felt or questions he had didn’t really matter. People seemed too busy to be asked.

It reminded me again that good care is more than medical.

I worry about our target- driven health care, where staff are under so much pressure to meet deadlines, targets, percentages and outcomes.

Of course we want to be safe and provide quality medical care for all, but at what cost?

If we are so focused on numbers that we forget people then something is wrong.

I think the emphasis needs to change from the top.

If our NHS and its staff are valued and treasured they will be able to care for their patients more effectively.

If we have a culture of building up rather than of pulling down, staff can feel safe to do their best.

If they are thanked and encouraged and supported, they are more able to give out to others.

I hope those at the top are willing to listen.