The ‘chaos’ at Heathrow this week has graphically illustrated just how difficult implementing large-scale change is. As is usually the case, it is not the kit that fails to work, but rather the human factors that can’t or won’t cope.
In a similar way, the NHS possesses great technical expertise and adequate kit (most of the time), but the experience of the patient, the final consumer of the service, is often woeful.
And yet, the essential quality that patients (and staff) are looking for is kindness. It costs little to be kind but we find it so hard to do. We find a hundred-and-one reasons why we can’t be kind, or worse, we deny that it’s a problem. But every day in the NHS, I come across shameful acts of unkindness and lost opportunities to positively be kind. At the same time, we want to be kind. That’s why we chose to work in healthcare, isn’t it?
So, my revolutionary idea to fix the problem is to train kindness. Because we assume that everyone is, or can be, instinctively kind, we feel it is unnecessary, or even frankly patronising, to systematise kindness. However, we can all think of instances when we have been delighted by someone’s kindness, and that should be reproducible and amenable to being taught. In many service industries this is already done. It’s usually called something like ‘customer contact skills training’, but basically it is the deliberate training of staff to be kind to consumers. It would also revolutionise the way colleagues interact.
What’s stopping us doing it?