I woke very early this morning. As I always do now. And grazing the internet (amongst Twitter and Candycrush) I came across the NHS Being Open policy. This was a revelation. A thoughtful (readable) policy for when things go wrong. Underpinned by insight and understanding. The benefits of Being open are laid out. These include, for the organisation, a reputation of respect and trust. For the professional, confidence in communicating effectively. For the patient, a reduction in the trauma felt.
There are 10 principles of Being open, the first three of which are’ acknowledgement’, ‘truthfulness, timeliness and clarity of communication’ and ‘apology’. Let’s take these babies one at a time.
When LB died, Rich was called by the A&E department and told very clearly to make his way to hospital straightaway, without passing go. The unit doctor who called me failed on this gig, saying at one point LB’s key nurse was with him and he would call me if there was any change. It doesn’t take a medical genius to know that there was going to be no change.
Timeliness and clarity of communication
I don’t need to rehash the complete bollocks the Trust made of this. It’s detailed on these pages. A sample lowlight can be found here. As for timeliness, the internal investigation properly started on November 6th when an independent organisation was appointed to lead it. Attempts to get an appropriate chair had failed up to this point. This was 125 days after LB died. The Trust said they had to wait for the police investigation to finish (around day 82). A position which apparently prevented them getting everything (anything?) organised, ready to start.
Eh? Wha? Apo…what?
Let’s have a look at what Being open says about apology…
Pretty straightforward really. Kind of what you’d do in any situation when something catastrophic has happened on your watch.
The morning LB died, the consultant (exceptional guy) said three staff from the unit were in A&E and wanted to see us. He’d (already) told them it wasn’t appropriate. We were huddled in the relatives room in utter shock. Around twelve hours earlier Rich had been watching Andy Murray reach the semi-finals of Wimbledon with LB. In a hospital setting. Now he was dead. We didn’t want to see the unit staff.
A week later I received a letter from the Acting Chief Executive of the Trust.
I was deeply saddened and sorry to hear of the death of your son, LB on Thursday 4th July. I want to express my sincere condolences, both personally and on behalf of the organisation. My thoughts are with you and your family at this difficult time. I also wanted to offer any support you may feel you need at this time.
This isn’t a meaningful apology. Well it’s not an apology at all. A thousand people have said similar to us since LB died.
They clearly ain’t rocking the Being open policy in the Trust. Perhaps one of the learning points to come out of this terrible tale. Eh? What’s that? The process after LB died maybe isn’t covered in the investigation... Oh. Of course not. Another job for PALS then?
I can’t speak for the Trust or the staff as to the implications of this most definitely not Being open approach.
For us, the trauma has been made so much worse. As always, stay classy Southern Health.