Trust Me, I’m (Still) a Doctor is an fascinating read. In essence, it is a collection of short stories that reads rather like a diary; each one exposing a scandal, cover up or scary fact about the NHS over the last 20 years. Dr Phil has written for Private Eye for over 16 years; you may remember that it was he who exposed the Bristol Babies Heart Scandal. Some of the more cynical of us NHS workers will not be completely surprised by the revelations, but for others it may be a shocking insight in to the secret world of the NHS and medicine. Thankfully, what the book does manage to achieve is to inform and forewarn the readers i.e. us, the NHS service users. Once we have read this book we will certainly ask more questions about our treatments, medications and procedures in order that we may navigate our way through our healthcare system more effectively.
I have to add that I completely admire Dr Phil’s stance; his brave whistle-blowing only goes to shame the rest of us who prefer to keep ‘mum’. This silence that is often despite witnessing awful and unjust practices; preferring instead to have an easy life and avoid any possible repercussions to our career. We offload instead under our breaths and over a glass of whatever; where no lessons will be learned and no good will come of it.
Personally, I would like to see an NHS where all staff are encouraged to openly challenge their colleagues, other members of the multi-disciplinary team and indeed, their employers without fear of reprisal. Obviously any challenge should be carried out in an appropriate and professional way to avoid vexatious claims; but with subsequent inquiries conducted in a totally transparent manner. The aim would be to learn from each episode, using them to inform and improve the quality of the service we deliver and at some stage in each of our lives, will surely be on the receiving end of. Dr Phil’s book demonstrates that sadly, we are not achieving this by a long shot.
Ideally organisations should ensure that they create a culture of challenge in which staff are encouraged to question processes that they recognise are insufficient or simply aren’t working at grass roots level. By doing so, staff will feel some ownership over the way their trust operates; but also the benefits to the organisation are potentially immense. Staff who are actually working at the sharp end, are fully aware of where the gaps or omissions in service provision lay. Very often they have some very sensible ideas about the solutions too. By giving them a channel for their voice to be heard and implementing some of the ideas it is reasonable to assume that service will improve and moral will be raised.