It may not have escaped your notice that I have moved on from King's College Hospital foundation trust to a new role at University Hospitals of Leicester trust.
I make no secret of my sense of bereavement in leaving King's for the second time. King's is a truly special place and I will enjoy seeing it prosper as part of the academic health science centre development in South London. But I'm getting excited about the opportunity to awaken a sleeping giant in the East Midlands. More of that in the coming months.
Bereavement is part of the transition from one job to another. Other parts are more prosaic, or so I thought.
One was the preparation of our London flat for tenants. It's a small place but deserving of seating for the two new occupants and so it needed more than the one armchair. To be helpful we ordered a two-seater sofa bed from a London department store and arranged delivery on the morning of 21 April. Scarred by previous stupidity when ordering oversized furniture we dutifully arranged the pre-delivery check to ensure installation would be uneventful. So far so good, although it is interesting that the morning is defined as any time between 7am and 1pm. Think of concerns about over-running clinic appointments - perhaps if we said it could be any time in five hours we would disappoint less.
The first sign that things weren't going well was a call on my mobile around 5pm two days before the expected delivery date. To paraphrase, it was unlikely the sofa could be delivered because they didn't know where it was. There was confidence it would be found, however, because they asked to deliver it in the evening instead. I couldn't do that and a conversation followed in which I, er, proposed they locate said sofa between the end of the phone call and 1pm on Monday and let me know accordingly.
Optimistically, I took paperwork and the Blackberry to the flat on Monday morning and awaited the call, which by 9.30 had not come.
A call from me and a subsequent burst of activity from the retailer confirmed there was no available sofa and there would be no delivery. After a flurry of irritated phone calls from me a further delivery attempt was set for the following Friday. In fairness we almost agreed I could rely on delivery this time before 9am. I also learned my problem would be passed to the section within the company which dealt with missing orders. As I engaged friends and colleagues in discussion about this emerging soap opera it was evident a number of them had experience of the missing orders section.
Friday came and delivery was imminent. Sadly, at the moment of expected triumph it emerged that 85cm of door width was required and I could only muster 79. When I peevishly pointed out that a man had already been, taken measurements and cleared the delivery I was advised he should have given instructions for the sofa to be dismantled at the warehouse and reassembled on site. And no, there was no way that could be done now.
Another flurry of phone calls concluded with a further delivery date and time a few days hence. Suffice to say when the day came no-one appeared. A further phone call flurry initiated by me ascertained that the request from the store had not been confirmed and processed as an order, so no delivery.
By this time all was sounding like one of those complaints about outpatient appointment cock-ups that were frequent a few years ago and still haven't entirely gone away. By this time I was in the hands of a very nice woman called Diane at the store's Oxford Street branch. Like the staff in a very good patient advice and liaison office she managed to convert the final deliver and assemble appointment into success. Now we have unfinished business regarding where to send some compensatory vouchers. Whatever I buy with them will be distinctly portable.
You may remember that I have previously highlighted where the service industry continues to saddle its customers, as we often do, with plenty of the burden. This is more of that territory. I could make myself flexible. Could a single parent with school-age children or a clinical professional tied to shift patterns have created the time to sustain this comedy of errors?
Perhaps one downside difference between the department store that sold me my sofa and its equivalents, let alone British Airways, is that the high street equivalent of the Terminal 5 experience is less visible. Breakdowns in health service outpatient departments and in airports create people congestion and thus an overwhelming sense of the obvious. Furniture congestion does not generate the same sense of outrage. As a consequence the vulnerability of the NHS or BA brand is much greater.
On the other hand we may at times overestimate ourselves.
A rating of excellent by the Healthcare Commission is a matter for pride. But many excellent trusts will deliver a Terminal 5 experience to a patient every day. The privilege is to get the trust to the point where we recognise the challenge and build from there. Institutions like the emerging academic health science centres will fall short unless they can match international class research and clinical quality to patient experience. Hence the importance of the developing concept of experience-based design - a way of organising services which reconciles improvement based on patient safety and clinical quality with the patient's view of the journey.
We may come to see a Healthcare Commission excellent as the de minimis position.
What do you think? Post your comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org