Sometimes the simplest communication has the most impact – and we really miss it when it’s not there. Take ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ for instance. They may come automatically, but they do make us feel more human, more appreciated, more connected to the other person.
Focusing on the individual is now recognised as a crucial element of health and social care. Providers of health and care services have standards and processes, visions and values that are all about being ‘person-centred’.
But it took a clinician seeing things from a patient’s perspective to pinpoint a big gap in everyday communication that makes a world of difference. Dr Kate Granger, a young hospital consultant who had terminal cancer, became frustrated by the number of staff who failed to introduce themselves to her when she was being treated in hospital. And so the ‘Hello, my name is’ campaign was born.
It is a simple idea – remind staff to go back to basics and say hello to patients properly by giving their name. Kate – who sadly died in July 2016 – saw this as the start of “making a vital human connection, beginning a therapeutic relationship and building trust between patients and healthcare staff”. She felt it was especially important to create that connection and trust in an environment and situation where people are often fearful, vulnerable and unsure.
The campaign has spread rapidly through social media, inspiring nurses, doctors, therapists, receptionists, porters – every sort of staff member who may come into contact with a patient. Many NHS organisations have pledged to promote the campaign among their own staff, and Kate’s husband and other supporters are taking the campaign worldwide. Posters, badges, lanyards and stickers are among the many promotional items now being used to keep pushing the core message – tell patients and their families who you are. If they always know who is looking after them, that will help them relax and feel safe.
NHS trusts that have signed up to the campaign are also reminding staff to ask each patient how they prefer to be addressed, and to introduce them to colleagues who take over their care at any point. Just making sure staff name badges are always visible can offer patients extra reassurance. The campaign has had feedback from patients across the country, saying what a big difference something small like knowing someone’s name can make.