They say bad news travels fast, and that is never truer than when thinking about healthcare experiences.
In my most recent D4Dementia blog, I documented my father's hospital care during his nineteen years with vascular dementia, quite a few episodes of which weren't particularly positive. I was prompted to share details of his inpatient care following the launch of the Alzheimer's Society 'Fix Dementia Care' campaign, which is calling for improvements in hospital care for people with dementia after they found damning variations and a catalogue of poor practices.
The reaction to my blog brought about more sharing of poor experiences from people who follow me on twitter, before the Secretary of State for Health added his voice:
Really moving blog. We need to do much better for dementia patients in hospital: https://t.co/ku9fnam3Vl— Jeremy Hunt (@Jeremy_Hunt) January 27, 2016
I wouldn't disagree with Jeremy Hunt, although I wouldn't want to be a tweeting politician given some of the comments his tweet provoked. There is of course a much wider debate to be had that could never be accommodated in 140 characters, and complexities within the #FixDementiaCare campaign that go far beyond NHS care and place as much responsibility on the NHS to improve as it is placed on policy makers and budget holders to increase social care funding, a topic I have long championed .
What I was careful to do in my 'Fixing dementia care in hospitals' blog, however, was to include details of some of the excellent care that my father received in hospital. Balance is often a rarity when healthcare is written about - bad news is so much more eye catching than sharing the many examples of good care.
Yet the last time I brought something to Jeremy Hunt's attention it was very much a good news story. Having received outstanding maternity care during the birth of our daughter in the latter part of last year, I wrote to Mr Hunt to document that care as an example of what great maternity services look like.
I was immensely proud to be able to do this: I love the NHS and want it to succeed as much as the most ardent NHS supporter. My care had everything - professional, knowledgeable staff who were compassionate, friendly, supportive and caring, combined with outstanding facilities. As a new mum I could not have asked for more for me or our daughter.
I also wanted to make sure that the staff who cared for me so personally and diligently, taking their time, helping, explaining, including and valuing me knew just how much I appreciated everything they did, above and beyond the card and chocolates for the team on the day my wonderful midwife discharged us. I wanted their ultimate 'boss' to know just how amazing his 'staff' are.
My greatest wish is that every woman has this level of care, and moreover that everyone who accesses NHS services for whatever reason has likewise. Maternity has become renowned in recent years for being over-stretched, underfunded, short-staffed and severely struggling to provide safe, effective, responsive, caring and well led services. Yet my care had all of those elements, and if it can be done in an area of the NHS that is known for the problems it's experiencing then surely that is replicable everywhere?
I am a strong believer in learning from experiences, and I share my father's in the hope that they can be learnt from to improve services for older people and people with dementia, but I also offer up my own positive story as a new mum. It's for every patient who's had great NHS care but never got around to saying how great it was, and it's for every healthcare professional who's delivered great care but felt persecuted by the bad press their profession gets. In 2016, it's never been more important to remember to shout about good NHS care too.