After Mr Benn’s death was announced a few weeks ago I thought about that conversation and was struck by how my experience compared to so many others. Mr Benn had an amazing ability to listen, ask relevant questions and appear genuinely interested in my answers. When he got off the train I realised that he had said very little about himself and why he was on a train to Leicester but he had found out a lot about me.
This experience brings me to the NHS. I talk to a lot of nurses about their working lives and what I hear from them is that no one really listens to what they have to say. Many describe the board visit to the ward, the chief exec doing a walk round or staff meetings with managers as frustrating interaction. Staff are left with a feeling that people are going through the motions of appearing to be interested when they are in fact rushing to be elsewhere.
The only way managers can really know what is happening to patients is to talk to them but also to those who care for them. Engagement with clinical staff has to be more than popping in for a quick chat or rolling your sleeves up for the odd shift. It has to be continuous cycle of mindful listening and feedback. Until this happens staffing will continue to feel “done to”.
Tony Benn made a huge impact with his life and I wonder if part of this was due to his ability to listen and absorb information which he was able to assimilate and reflect back to his audience. I am sure that NHS managers could make good use of his listening skills to make proper use of the information that the staff on the frontline are feeding to them.