Taking the temperature of health services

I have been interested to hear about the changes being proposed to the health service, particularly the discussion about the inspection regime. The latest details were about a task force of professionals or trained individuals who will be used to target areas of concern to review them and make recommendations.

It made me think about the current initiative we have introduced at work, that of the community reporter. These are local people who are interested in policing but have no previous knowledge of it and want to learn more. They are taken out on patrol with officers and are able to observe them doing their job. They can ask questions about what they see and also about the work that takes place. They are then encouraged to post details of what they think and feel about what they have experienced on Twitter, Facebook, blogs or other digital media.

This is being introduced because the organisation wants to learn more about people’s views and also about what success in policing will look like in their communities. It is a new level of transparency and one that requires the organisation to be mature in handling the negative as well as the positive. For a risk-averse organisation taking people out like this is a significant step forward.

I wonder whether such an approach has been attempted in the National Health Service? Are people given the opportunity to see first hand how doctors, surgeons, hospitals and other sections of the health world are working and then write about their experiences? Perhaps this would bring a more raw and honest appraisal of the situation. It would certainly demonstrate openness and transparency that seems to have been lacking if you believe the reports and media coverage.

When watching the Channel 4 programme Undercover Boss it reminded me of the importance of senior managers seeing the work of the frontline. This can help them keep connected with what is taking place which should make changes to procedures, policy and process more grounded in reality. This is the same for local people, customers or whatever you want to call them. They can help to keep organisations in touch with the people who matter Рthose that are going to use the service.

So perhaps as well as having a task force that are going to assess the state of health services the organisations should look at how they can open up to honest feedback from users or interested members of the public. What do health communication professionals think?

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