Getting staffing levels right is part and parcel of ensuring patients get the best “customer care”, according to an independent review of the way the Welsh NHS handles complaints.
The government-commissioned review by Keith Evans, former chief executive and managing director of electronics manufacturer Panasonic, makes more than 100 recommendations for improving the complaints process.
“Whatever job someone has in the NHS, they should think of themselves wearing their patients’ shoes”
In his report, published yesterday, Mr Evans highlighted the importance of knowing the skills of staff and “how many hands you need on the job”.
“Asking people to work in the wrong ratios can cause poor quality, incidents and risk so this is a seriously studied matter in industry,” the report stated.
It goes on to warn that nurses under pressure are at risk of developing “compassion fatigue”, while the increasing amount of admin “is diverting nursing attention”.
“In tough work circumstances you try so hard that you do get compassion fatigue,” said the report. “This can be especially in high-tension nursing or clinical settings, or where extended shifts are a routine.
“There are also peak moments of pressure that are predictable each week in terms of the pattern of services and demand that can create fatigue if not adequately staffed up,” it added.
Mr Evans’ recommendations include the need for a “no blame culture” to ensure lessons can be learned from people who have had bad experiences of care.
The procedure for making complaints should also be made clearer and promoted to patients and their families. Meanwhile, health boards should spend more time analysing incidents and complaints.
“Executives and senior staff in all areas must lead the required change from the front and by good example,” said Mr Evans.
“Furthermore, whatever job someone has in the NHS, they should think of themselves wearing their patients’ shoes and put themselves in their position at all times. Doing so will quickly reveal the daily issues of what is going right and wrong.”
Health minister for Wales Mark Drakeford welcomed the findings.
“We need to do all we can to allow patients to put forward their concerns effectively and simply,” he said.
“At the same time we must not create a climate where staff feel under siege, as this report has found.”