The “arrogance” of hospitals

The Healthcare Commission have published a report today about the state of the NHS.

On Radio 4′s Today programme this morning, they had Dr Michael Dixon speaking. He is a GP and chair of the NHS Alliance, as well as being a Trustee of Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health. Dr Dixon took issue with the charge that hospitals were not sending out discharge summaries quickly enough. He was asked why this was; he said the cause was “arrogance”.

There is no doubt that discharge summaries are important. But to accuse hospitals of “arrogance” as a cause of slow receipt of them by GPs? It is not uncommon for hospital doctors to phone GPs like me to discuss difficult cases or to flag up potential problems as a patient comes home. This is rather helpful. Not at all “arrogant”.

It is also common for patients to come to the surgery, or to deliver in, a hand written discharge summary with a note of the most important problems or changes to treatment. This isn’t “arrogant” either.

I know for a fact that many hospital doctors stay late or go back in when they are not supposedly working to get through the paperwork; I also know that hospital secretaries, who are paid appallingly, work long and hard to get discharge letters typed quickly. I also know that most secretaries could earn more money for an easier job elsewhere. Most secretaries do not just type letters but act as PAs and organisers for patients, smoothing paths and sorting problems. I have not met an “arrogant” secretary yet.

This kind of comment damages morale and does not recognise the real resources that the NHS relies on. Goodwill and vocation is what keeps the NHS afloat.

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