Posted by: ayrshirehealth | August 3, 2012

Going for Gold – patient coaching NHS to deliver top results by @ginaAalexander

Olympic fever

I’ve really bought into Olympic fever this week!  My friends and family and I were wholly impressed by the Opening Ceremony. 

There was collective surprise over Danny Boyle’s inclusion of the NHS in his potted history lesson of all things British but, of course it makes sense:

– across the globe, our health service is unique, set up to deliver “to each according to their needs”.

I’d already been thinking about an Olympic theme for this blog, so there, Danny and I think along the same lines!

What parallels could be drawn between Olympic athletes in their quest for gold and the NHS as they endeavour to meet their quality ambitions: safe, effective, person centred care?

A few years ago I went on a management coaching skills course through work. (Based on Tim Galwey’s “The Inner Game” – worth the bookshelf space,   One exercise used golf to illustrate the power of applying coaching skills and techniques.  I don’t have a lot of spatial awareness but within 30 minutes of receiving comment and observation from my partner (not a professional golf coach) I actually putted a “hole in one”!

Coaches play such a huge part in a successful Olympian’s journey.   The coach offers consistent and constant observations and comment on the minute details which can make an exponential difference to an athlete’s performance.  Coaching involves offering positive encouragement about what’s working well and often delivering hard truths about what isn’t. It is a relentless process but one which both athlete and coach commit to because ultimately they believe it will deliver results.

I was, until recently, mum of a competitive swimmer.   My swimmer in his attempts to achieve personal bests and medal winning performances was under close scrutiny from his coach: counting his strokes per length; the angle his hand entered the water; the position of his head and a number of other tiny, apparently inconsequential activities.  Raising his awareness of all the details of his technique, initiating slight adjustments meant hundredths of a second shaved off his times, over months this became seconds, over years in turned into minutes.

It struck me that patient feedback has the potential to have a similar impact on the NHS.   Patients as coaches?! In a prime position to be able to give constant fresh feedback on what and how health services are doing.  Feedback given little and often, constantly and consistently (not now and then when services need to demonstrate efficacy or how they have involved patients), can result in changes1 which can make positive differences to the way patients experience health care both immediately and increasingly over time.  Feedback can also act as a powerful motivator, highlighting what’s being done well1, and as a reminder of what makes a difference1.

There’s still plenty of fantastic opportunities with patient and carer feedback to tap into a free and insightful resource which can help health services to go for “gold”.   

There’s still a way to go – and it’s not easy: it’s so uplifting to hear good feedback but challenging to hear where things are going wrong.

As with Olympic athletes, feedback needs to be recognised by and embraced by us all as a way of reinforcing good behaviours and an opportunity to identify where improvements can be made, because it’s an enabler to help us reach our goals.

So let’s continue to look for more opportunities to be “coached” to success and be thankful that we don’t have to get up at 5am every morning to find them!

1 taken from Patient Opinion

Gina (Alexander) is Engagement & Support Officer for Patient Opinion in Scotland

Next weeks blog is by @johnahpd:

Glass half full – AHP and asset building approaches to healthier living


  1. […] Going for Gold – patient coaching NHS to deliver top results by Gina A Alexander on the Ayrshire Health blog. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPinterestMoreEmailRedditPrintDiggStumbleUponTumblrLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. This entry was posted in communicating, customer service, health, health services, learning, Olympics, public sector, sports, streets, swimming, training by weeklyblogclub. Bookmark the permalink. […]

  2. […] Opinion) also had an Olympic slant in her health service guest post on the Ayrshire Health blog: Going for Gold – patient coaching NHS to deliver top results. Her post contains some interesting ideas that could work for other areas of public services […]

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