Hello my name is…

…today is the day 100 NHS Trusts decided to get behind an initiative called “Hello my name is”. The campaign was created to encourage NHS staff to use the phrase to introduce themselves so as to quickly create a good dialogue between patients and staff. That’s good I hear you say and of course the NHS made sure that the launch was seen as big news by mainstream media and Twitter quickly became awash with #hellomynameis

I was a bit, well dare I say, a bit unimpressed by it all…I was mildly confused that the media actually thought it was a story, “Extra, extra, read all about it, people in a publicly funded service learn how to introduce themselves to their customers after 67 years”… its not really a story is it? And if it is, we need to ask ourselves why it is. Of course it’s great that the loosely managed franchise that delivers healthcare under a banner we call the NHS has decided to introduce some consistency in the way that it deals with patients; this might even help it start to look like a nationally consistent service, not one that has had no nationally adopted guidelines on customer and patient service in place up to this point; surely not I hear you cry!

But really, has it come to this, have we become so tolerant of mediocrity in Public Services that we celebrate when they adopt the most basic principles of customer service? What should we expect the next ground-breaking story to be, “NHS agrees and adopts common templates for communicating with patients and their families”…that’s probably a bit ambitious actually, but you get the point. When implementing the absolute basics gives senior Public Sector leaders cause to punch the air, whoop and generally high five, it just makes people wonder what they have been doing up until now and question which planet they are living on. Its the organisational equivalent of a grown man running down the street shouting, “Wahey everyone, I’ve just learned to use the potty”, it might be nice for them and the people they know, but its not really news for the outside world.

The real story behind this non-story is that it offers a further glimpse into who the Public Sector has treated as its customer up to this point, and as you might predictably expect in the absence of a linear relationship between the balance sheet and the satisfaction of its service users, it has clearly not been the patients; it has been the funders and regulators who control the purse strings who have been the focus of senior managers attention. There can be no other service based business in the world turning over as much money with as many points of personal contact that would congratulate itself so heartily on simply remembering who it was actually there to serve. The irony should not be wasted on any of us that for a business delivering services in the Private Sector the adoption of good customer service principles would have been a basic hygiene factor, the ignoring of which would have quickly spelled disaster. The fact that the NHS has been able to fly under the radar of consistent customer service for so long is not something its customers or its taxpaying funders should celebrate. We should all be asking why so little senior focus has been devoted to it up until now…




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