Patient opinion matters

Image It happened on Christmas Day.

Our Christian celebration and a time for love and hope and goodwill. My son J and I saw this is abundance in one single half hour in a dental surgery, and it was totally unexpected and surrounded by worry.

Our delightful little 4 year old grandson came with his big sister from Holland to celebrate Christmas with us, and during a short walk on Christmas Day afternoon, he fell full length on some ancient stone steps in the grounds of Whalley Abbey, and knocked out one his front teeth, and loosened another. Amidst his screams and copious amounts of blood, my husband ran to a nearby shop (amazingly it was open!) for tissues and then for our car to take him home.

After at least an hour of trying to convince NHS Direct that we needed a dentist and not a trip to the local hospital's emergency department, I gave up and contacted our private dental practice and asked to be put through to the emergency on call partner. A little while later we were on our way to the surgery, having been directed to enter by the back door.

To say we were anxious was an understatement, my son was as traumatised as his little boy, and we were worried about the decision about to be made on the future of the loose tooth. Dr Alison Whittaker met us at the door, with a beaming smile and such a pleasant, reassuring attitude. She instantly made us feel safe and secure. What a difference it made to us all, and our small grandson didn't hesitate climbing on the treatment couch so that she could look at him.

Dr Alison Whittaker with Q

I have recently posted about my experience of NHS care, and the importance of positive attitude, kindness and compassion from healthcare workers. I am no stranger to the impact this has on patient experience, and how a nurturing environment aids recovery and supports families to aid the process. I have also recently discovered the brilliant and 'common sense' work of Robin Youngson who demonstrates how 'compassionate care saves time, money and lives'. And I have seen it myself from a caregivers, patient, and family member perspective.

Through #Twitter I came across Patient Opinion, the UK's leading independent non-profit feedback platform for health services. The website facilitates 'honest and meaningful conversations between patients and health services', and I was happy to tell them about our liaison with Dr Whittaker. I think feedback is a powerful tool, and crucial in encouraging and supporting first class health care. And what better way to let someone know they have made a difference? Or that there needs to be an improvement?

And what a perfect antedote to the negative unsolicited media coverage of the National Health Service, which does nought but instil fear in those who use it. Patient Opinion can help those of us who work or have worked for the NHS and affiliated services to promote positive stories and further empower those who are committed to serving their community with pride.

Do you have a story to tell?

A little scare and our wonderful NHS


NHS Logo

The thing I had dreaded for years happened. I was recalled after a routine mammogram.

Some of my dear friends have received the same letter, and after recheck have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I also know that many women are invited for further checks, and sent home with reassurance that all is well. I actually had a premonition that I would be recalled, and although shocked to see the green letter (denoting a problem I feared) I was quite calm. I tried to stay positive, and succeeded I think, but as my husband and I drove into the hospital car park my stomach started to churn. Would this be the beginning of a change in my life? The fear started to creep in. We had trouble parking, and so arrived at the department just in time.

As soon as I walked through the door I received impeccable and exemplary attention. The receptionist was warm, smiling and kind. She went out of her way to direct me to the waiting room, and I instantly felt reassured. There were three other couples in the waiting area, all staring at the TV in the corner. I got out my knitting (Christmas presents!) and started to focus on being calm and strong. After 10 minutes I was called into a treatment room by Rachel, who quietly and carefully told me why I had been asked to come for further checks, and she showed me by mammogram images. A tiny small area of concern had been highlighted and that was the problem. Rachel was so very considerate and reassuring. She gave me the most appropriate care, and helped me to relax. I had a further structured mammogram, then an ultrasound scan. With the help of lovely assistant Heather, Dr Ahmed carried out the scan, and after formally introducing himself and shaking my hand he performed the task sensitively and at all times maintained my dignity. I am shy, so this procedure made me feel anxious. After checking my lymph nodes carefully, he informed me that the tests were clear, and that there was nothing to worry about.

With eyes full of tears, I thanked Dr Ahmed and Heather, and gave them feedback on their positive attitude and approach, explaining how it had helped minimise my fears.

On the way home (with an equally relieved husband) I reflected on this brief but important and potentially life-changing experience, and I felt and still feel enormously thankful to such dedicated caring staff at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust (Burnley site), and to the NHS as a whole.


We owe you so much.