Why a desk is more important than my training

Last week I bought a desk from a well known high street retailer (I’m not going to give them a plug, but let’s just say that I’m a doctor in the Midlands and it’s a national brand. There aren’t that many options really)

One small problem: this desk arrived neatly packaged up in its box without any fixtures or fittings (I have never understood what the difference is, but the things that hold it together and stop it collapsing).

I made one phone call, and explained the problem. Within 12 hours, I’d had contact from the manufacturers in Denmark to confirm what I needed, and within 48 hours a package arrived on my doormat containing the missing parts.

That’s all it took. One phone call to report a problem, and there was a solution within 48 hours. The shop actually offered to collect the existing desk, and replace it with a completely new one, but I said no. (I couldn’t face waiting for another delivery!)

So there you go: one problem, and a solution that was discussed with me and adapted to what I need. A brilliant example of how to do customer service. And that’s just a desk. In the grand scheme of things, it’s really not that important.

I don’t usually like comparisons between the NHS and commercial organisations (for many, many reasons) but this experience came at the same time I was trying to give some feedback on my medical training, and the two encounters could not have been more different.

Nobody suggested that I was responsible for the fixings not having been delivered; it wasn’t my fault that something wasn’t perfect. The retailer & manufacturer were just concerned with finding a solution to the problem that I had reported. They weren’t trying to investigate my behaviour; there was no discussion of an inquiry into what happened. Just a genuine interest and attempt to help.

It’s just a desk. It’s not the future of the clinicians employed by the NHS.

You would think that medical training was worth more than a desk; that those responsible would relish the chance to improve the experience of their trainees; that feedback would be welcomed.

I’ve come to realise just how naive that is.

We’ve heard a lot recently about how the NHS needs to listen more to patient & carer feedback; the friends & family test is one way of picking up on this. Rather than waiting for complaints, there’s a move to seeking the whole picture from patients, families, staff. It’s a way of pre-empting problems (hopefully); of finding systems problems before they develop into errors and spark complaints.

Why is it so hard to see that could be useful for medical training? Keogh was right: trainees are the front-line of the NHS, and have useful insights into what’s going on with patient care. Funnily enough, we also have a bit of insight into what’s happening with our training. When it isn’t working, and when it is. Feedback should be welcomed & encouraged, not repressed. Raising concerns shouldn’t be seen as a reason to blame trainees for not receiving training, but rather a reason to look into why this has happened.

Maybe it’s just time to let my idealism die a little


One thought on “Why a desk is more important than my training

  1. The NHS needs idealism though, trudging along with the status quo with a ‘this is just how we do it around here’ is as good as saying that things could be improved but it all seems like a bit too much bother. Doctors like yourself are the reason I still have faith that a culture change is possible and not just a lot of fluffy talk x

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