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Good Surgical Practice - Communication is vital

12 Sep 2014

Miss Clare Marx, President of the Royal College of Surgeons

My 95 year old neighbour rang for help as her brother aged 92 had been admitted to a surgical ward. Staff tried to tell her his diagnosis but no one would tell her what she really wanted to know. Was he so sick that her visit could be the last time she would see him?

Every day, my colleagues deliver the highest standard of patient care but we don’t get it right when we fail to understand what really matters to our patients or their families. I see the work of my surgical colleagues first hand and know that many surgeons lead the way, innovating and improving standards across the NHS. How much better would our patients' experience be if we worked on the basis of “if this were me or a member of my family would this be good enough?”

Last week, I visited (UHSM) Wythenshawe hospital in Manchester where I met surgical teams and trainees of all levels to launch and discuss our new guide Good Surgical Practice (GSP). Issues around communications covered in the guide came up repeatedly. It was also an opportunity for open discussions about the challenges facing surgery today. Many surgeons may be thinking: how can I be expected to do more? That’s not the point; it may not be more, just different, smarter, more patient focussed.

Achieving the highest standard of patient care requires more than surgical excellence which is a base on which to build trust with both patients and colleagues. Leadership skills, and an environment of collaboration with the patient and the wider clinical team, are essential.

We are on the journey of unchallenged to challenged, secretive to open and transparent as we try to deliver the best care possible, learning from our own and other experiences and accepting our responsibilities. In this complex system putting patient experience at the centre will help.

So why am I proud to launch this new version of Good Surgical Practice? Surgeons are innovators and enthusiasts. Being a surgeon is not always easy. Nothing is more rewarding than giving your patient the best possible care but to achieve this, our paradigm needs to shift from doctor knows best to patient knows too. This guide should give us all guidance and communication which is key to the work ahead.

Follow Miss Clare Marx, President, Royal College of Surgeons on twitter @ClareMarx

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