Today is NHS ‘Change Day’, when hospital managers will visit patients who might otherwise be alone, and nursing staff will make sure children have a favourite toy to hand as they recover from surgery. One doctor will even spend a day on a spinal board to better understand what the experience is like for patients.
In total, NHS staff will attempt to make and act upon half a million pledges – more than double the number made in 2013.
The motivation behind the day is benevolent rather than a self-serving PR exercise, but it’s easy to see that the NHS can do with such a well-intentioned endeavour. Even today there are reports in the Daily Telegraph about the latest health service whistleblower, who now faces the sack for identifying issues of patient care potentially on a par with those in Mid-Staffordshire – which is itself not out of the headlines after Jeremy Hunt announced last week that the trust was to be broken up.
The narrative of the NHS has changed fundamentally in recent years. It remains one of the UK’s great institutions and is relied upon by the population. But it is not held in the esteem and reverence that it once was. And while this has to an extent been healthy in identifying deficiencies in patient care and in holding those entrusted with our health to their professional standards, the bad news had often overshadowed the great amount of good that the NHS does on a daily basis.
This is the other reason why NHS Change Day is important. It is a reminder of the ethos of the health service. And that message is enhanced by the fact that positive press is not why the day is organised.