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I don’t know when it became fashionable, or possibly even mandatory, for hospitals trusts to define and advertise their ‘institutional values’. St Elsewhere’s prioritises Caring, Communication and Consistency. Nowhereseville General goes for Patients First, Working Together and Always Improving. The Ambridge Health Trust would like you to know that it is Quality-Driven, Responsible and Compassionate. Even though most hospital websites cannot reliably tell you the ward phone numbers, the institutional values are always easy to find and prominently displayed.
The ones that go for twee little acronyms are easiest to mock. One hospital values CARE – Compassion, a positive Attitude, Respect and Equality. It’s only too easy to think up alternatives – Caring, Responsive, United and Dedicated, perhaps, or Action, Respect, Skill and Excellence.
Defining your values raises some obvious problems. Presumably if there’s any point in having specified values at all, they’re supposed to say something distinctive about your organisation. But is St Elsewhere’s really more Caring than Ambridge is, yet also more irResponsible? Is it better to be Quality-Driven but wildly inconsistent, or Consistently mediocre? Why should any particular hospital choose one set of values over another, and who cares if they do?
The people who devote their time to these things presumably feel that it is necessary to spell out what a hospital is for. Otherwise the staff might get the wrong idea, leave off looking after ill people to devote all their time to optimising the colour scheme or converting everyone to veganism. Or perhaps it’s supposed to be for the patients’ benefit: if you’re feeling anxious about your upcoming open-heart surgery or your great-uncle’s emergency admission with urosepsis, at least you might feel better knowing the institution is devoted to Working Together.
It’s odd because, of all areas of human endeavour, healthcare is one of those where the objectives are easiest to define. Every schoolchild knows what a hospital is supposed to do. Just like a doctor, its job is to save lives and to prevent or relieve suffering. It really is as simple as that.
Perhaps the proliferation of institutional values – together with all the committees, branding consultants and co-creation workshops that go into inventing them – reflects an anxiety about our ability to achieve those simple underlying aims. Perhaps when your hospital cannot consistently treat cancer in a reasonable time-frame, or give any assurance that frail patients will be given a drink of water when they are thirsty, it’s natural to cast about for some vaguer alternative target. Even if the staff on the front-line know that things are getting worse every winter, perhaps someone in an office somewhere feels comforted to know that their hospital is Always Improving.
By the Secret Doctor
Read the blog and follow @TheSecretDr on Twitter and on Facebook
I’m not sure I agree.
I had paid little or no attention to the ‘values’ of any hospital I had worked in. That was until recently...
A series of unfortunate, avoidable, events prompted the chief executive to write to all staff reminding them of the hospital’s core values.
‘Our vision is to provide every patient with the care we want for those we love the most’.
A simple but beautiful, pertinent and most of all, truthful phrase.
Whilst usually emails from the chief executive are met with a similar cynicism to that of this blog, this particular one gave many of us pause for thought, and a moment of reflection.
The ‘values’ are not always directed at patients but can serve as a real reminder to overworked, stressed and exhausted staff, just exactly what it is we are all working for.
Trust values are a product of misplaced branding and consumerism. If I change trust, do my values change? What trusts don’t get, is that as a healthcare professionals, I define myself as working for the NHS not for an individual trust. Far better for all trusts to dedicate themselves to universal NHS values.
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Defining your values raises some obvious issues. presumptively if there’s any purpose in having given values in the slightest degree, they’re speculated to say one thing distinctive concerning your organisation. <a href="www.paperwriting.co.uk/">online term paper uk</a>
It all sounds Orwellian to me.