NHS Direct AGM makes the move online

Readers of this blog will no doubt be aware of my lack of enthusiasm for NHS Direct and most other telephone care lines that fail to empower patients with informed care and the ability to take away a written record of their consultation. All the same I’m very enthusiastic (and a little bit impressed!) by their latest initiative in which they video recorded and live webcast their AGM.

Really great to see centrally funded organisations being more open like this and it all worked very nicely:

The table plan proved a useful way of identifying individuals:

Although personally I would have found open or closed captioning more useful.

Some interesting take-aways for me:

> Great to hear that the NHS Direct is now enabling staff to work from home, but do they really have to refer to the staff of the Plymouth Home Working Scheme as “Pilot Girls”. In 2010 I thought it was only within some old HSE Hospitals that the word “girls” was used to refer to female staff. I wonder if this is one of those roles that is sadly only offered to female applicants?

All the same staff responses were very positive eg. by avoiding the need to commute it was “adding 2 hours to my day”

The member of staff involved in the trial also made an inadvertant mention of the benefits of video calling when discussing why it was easy to become distracted in an open plan call centre environment because “you can’t see” the patient you’re talking with. The evidence is building on this additional focus and empathy that carers naturally want to give when they are faced with the image of their patient.

> Fascinating to learn that the NHS Direct Symptom Checkers are now consistent with their telephone services:

Surely there is now no justification for NHS Direct to not consider collaborating with external companies such as our partner IMH UK? After all there’s not much chance of being able to stay competitive and build sustainable value if any private company can now freely look at, copy and improve upon your backend services. When it was the closed telephone service at least there was some hope of maintaining the proprietary advantages they may have had.

> The World Cup themed campaign was also rather topical way of motivating staff, but the way it was introduced seemed to me that it was happening in the absence of other more proven/tried/tested methods or any service wide strategy.

It was also interesting to note that they were managing to answer 90% of all calls within 30 seconds. If they’ve got calls being waited on to this extent can you imagine the efficiencies a “text us and we’ll call you back” style of service could offer?

> The AGM also alluded to the “Poor Rostering System” that remains in place and which is being “comprehensively overhauled”. I would like to hear how much they expect this to improve efficiencies within this expensive system.

> Capital Investment held a few big surprises which I could elaborate on for the next week. I think this screenshot says it all though especially when you appreciate that the NHS Direct budget is north of £100 million per annum.

> Staff turnover remains a big issue with “20-25% of staff leaving within the first 12 months”. Which is particularly serious when you appreciate the amount of training that’s being provided. Imagine the potential savings if the NHS Direct management team started Delivering Happiness?

> Chief Executive and Chair Joanne Shaw addressed Dr Brian Gaffney, NHS Direct Director of Public Health, with the question of whether or not the service “creates more work” rather than supporting GPs. His response was that this was “not the truth at all” and justified it with the claim that half of all “callers” are dealt within the NHS Direct itself.

When the TV weather reporters are informing the general public that they can ring NHS Direct to get advice about the hot weather I’m not so sure this argument is valid especially as Dr Gaffney goes on to suggest that as many as 1 in 5 are being directed to an inperson GP consultation within the next 24 hours.

Whilst it’s put forward that this avoids “2.5 million unneccessary appointments” and is relieving GPs of a “huge burden” I can’t help but think that this is ignoring the potential for better designed Public Health initiatives to have an impact on demand and for validated Interactive Online Questionnaires to provide more efficient informed consultations.

> I also wasn’t at all impressed with their single page Online Survey:

Which I would have liked to have been able to launch at anytime I wanted:

And which failed to launch as described when I got to the end and closed my window:

I didn’t find it to be a very well designed questionnaire for several reasons:

a) It required me to move to a different URL eg. smart-survey.co.uk
b) It was low on content and didn’t utilise interactivity or drop down multiple choice answers eg. Why did you watch todays webcast?
c) It didn’t enable participants to profile themselves (surely knowing your audience would be useful?) eg. What is your occupation?
d) It ignored the potential for engagement with respondents or the ability to open dialogue with those interested in contributing
e) I found the single line comments box to be discouraging for people who would like to give feedback
f) It didn’t enable participants to identify themselves or ask if they’d like to offer feedback on future services

All in all though a great initiative and I hope that the NHS Direct team will engage in the discussions that this starts and that other Healthcare organisations (and of course the various mHealth Alliances) will follow their lead.

About 3G Doctor

The Corporate Blog of 3G Doctor
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