This article in The Guardian about how the NHS has much to learn from the retail sector in the way it designs and uses patient questionnaires has prompted a lot of angry comment.
To be fair, it makes one or two good points. These include the fact that we are too slow in incorporating patient feedback into the way health care is delivered. Also, that it is not clear why we ask the questions we do of patients.
Where it completely and utterly falls flat on its face is in comparing shopper behaviour in Argos to the way people use the health service. Companies like to delude themselves and others about the ‘rich’ relationship they have with their customers . Yet, in the final analysis, there is nothing more to it than an exchange of money for goods.
I have some sympathy for the arguments Sir Ian Kennedy and others have set out for better customer service in the NHS a la John Lewis. But heaven help us all if we begin to model the whole system on what happens in the high street.
Personally I’d like to know a bit more how it involves patients in what it does. For, in my experience, the best patient surveys are those not just designed with patients in mind, but put together and conducted by patients themselves. I think they call it ‘putting the customer first’ in the retail business.