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Patient experience begins well before the first #hellomynameis…

Anya de Iongh 01 August 2014

Anya de Iongh, a patient leader living with several long term conditions, writes about the importance of administrators in delivering good patient care.


For me, the point of care, is to not just treat the symptoms but to support the person to heal. In the case of long term conditions, that healing can be achieved through good self-management support. But to achieve this, we need to look at care from the patients’ perspective, and that experience and perspective starts from before even the first contact with a service.

Symptoms vary, but all can have a big impact on someone’s quality of life, so by the time they have called out for help, that impact is going to be both significant and negative. Take my recent contact with the orthotics service – I’d broken one so was without the ‘foot-up’ support I find so helpful. A phone message later, and I was speaking to their administrator, who said they would get the orthotist to check my notes and sort it out. Often the first contact with a new clinic or service comes with a referral letter of some description, or a member of the administration team – i.e. non-clinical people.

A few days later, I popped back to the hospital to pick up my new orthotics, and they were the wrong clips with the wrong straps… None of the orthotists were in, so it was left to the administrator to change them for me (not quite as simple as it sounds – these things never are!), but she was great.

Although I had an appointment with the orthotist 16 months ago, and they checked my notes this time, my whole experience of the service and “care” was provided by an administrator. I didn’t ‘see’ anyone clinical, since unusually, that was the stuff that was done behind the scenes.

Whilst I appreciate that the orthotist service might not be a standard service configuration, it highlights the importance of everyone working to provide care (in even the most indirect ways) understanding the potential impact they can have on patient’s experience. Training and development needs to support administration to maximize the positive impact they can have.

I’m currently lucky enough to be working as a self-management coach for the NHS in Dorset, supporting people with long term health conditions to develop the knowledge, confidence and skills to self-manage. Aside from the privilege of seeing people change and grow, it is really satisfying being on the service provider side and being able to do what I know matters: making the administration as smooth as possible; and returning calls as promptly as I can.

It is the least unsexy thing to campaign for, and isn’t headline-grabbing like patient safety, but I think that good administration had the biggest potential to improve patient experience in the NHS. A patient’s experience begins well before the first #hellomynameis…