A Leeds doctor’s simple message which became a global campaign

From a simple desire to humanise healthcare, a leeds doctor’s campaign has spread across the world. katie baldwin reports on the success of #hellomynameis.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 25th June 2014, 7:30 am
Dr Kate Granger
Dr Kate Granger

Like all great ideas, it’s deceptively simple.

Meeting someone new, you’d automatically introduce yourself. At work, or socially, it’s just common courtesy to say who you are. So why then, has it not been automatic in a setting where people are often at their most vulnerable – as a patient in the health service?

It seems obvious, but up until recently it was not guaranteed or even common that doctors and nurses would introduce themselves at appointments.

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That’s despite it being recommended in healthcare manuals as far back as the 1960s.

Dr Kate Granger was well aware of the practice through her work treating elderly patients.

But it was becoming a patient herself which brought the importance of introductions into sharp focus.

She was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2011. Kate was aged just 29.

Back in Leeds, the young doctor faced years of medical treatment and hospital stays, as well as the devastating news that her cancer was terminal.

During those times, Kate began to notice the differences in the way those caring for her behaved.

Brian the porter took time to introduce himself, ask how she was and made extra effort not to make her pain worse as he wheeled her through the corridors, and she remembered this small act of kindness.

But many others didn’t take the time to even tell her their names.

“That made me feel like a diseased body in a bed, not a person,” she said.

There were other things too, like the way the routine of some wards seemed to have been designed with little thought of the effect on the patients themselves.

During one spell as an in-patient, she couldn’t sleep for three days.

“I had been woken up by cleaners, phlebotomists, nurses and healthcare assistants,” she says.

“That was all about how you run a ward – do you run it for the convenience of staff or do you do it for patients?”

Kate, who has also detailed her experiences in two books raising money for the Yorkshire Cancer Centre Appeal, talked with husband Chris and decided to launch a social media campaign.

She already had a strong following on Twitter and thought that she could use that platform to encourage medical staff to introduce themselves to every patient they met.

So #hellomynameis was born – and quickly it was picked up by other health workers.

“It’s a simple idea but that’s its ingenuity,” Kate said.

“Everyone can do it and it doesn’t cost any money.

“If you can make a big difference to patient care by doing something that takes seconds, I think we should all be doing it.”

The doctor, who works at St James’s Hospital in Leeds and is also a patient there, said she hoped #hellomynameis also gave staff the inspiration to do their jobs to the best of their abilities.

The campaign isn’t just about introducing yourself.

Kate’s aim is to promote care, in line with the so-called six Cs of healthcare - care, compassion, competence, communication, courage and commitment.

She knows only too well how important these are for patients, having been in the same position as them on numerous occasions.

“You are in an unfamiliar environment. To our patients, everything is new and strange and it’s scary,” said the doctor, who lives in East Ardsley.

“It’s scary for me and I know the environment.

“A simple interaction restores the power balance. It’s about building a relationship, trust and rapport. These things are really vital if you’re going to succeed.

“It also sets things off on the right foot. If you start things clearly, other things flow on naturally.”

To Kate’s surprise, the campaign has taken off to become something of a global phenomenon in the world of healthcare and beyond.

With the help of her brother, the #hellomynameis website was set up, featuring a range of resources which can be downloaded.

She is in massive demand to talk about the campaign to everyone from local hospital trusts to conferences attended by top NHS figures.

“I just thought it was going to be a few people who might tweet about it and some patients might get involved on Twitter and show my experience was not a unique one,” she said.

“I didn’t realise I would have a massive campaign on my hands.

“I get so many messages of support. You just have to look at #hellomynameis on Twitter to see how many people are involved.

“I never realised it was going to go global.”

She thinks that it is the fact she herself is a doctor and has spoken out honestly which has helped propel #hellomynameis.

“I really think it just strikes a chord. I think people realise it’s not just common courtesy,” Kate said.

“It makes professionals reflect on their practice. They are thinking ‘maybe I didn’t introduce myself to every patient.”

She knows of hundreds of examples – such as the intensive care doctor who now introduces themselves to every patient, even if when it’s not clear that the patient can hear them. It still makes a massive difference to their relatives.

But she is clear that in no way does her campaign level criticism at the NHS.

Kate has wanted to be a doctor for as long as she can remember, is still working despite her own health and who says the majority of her care has been good or excellent.

However, that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

“I’m passionate about quality improvement within the NHS. I always have been,” she said.

“It’s one of the things I’m very interested in, how we can change behaviour, how we make things better for patients. We have to reflect on bad experiences.

“This is my own quality improvement project, in its own way.

“I had an experience which I felt was suboptimal and I wanted to change it for the better..”

* Log on to http://hellomynameis.org.uk for more information on the campaign.

It’s been praised by the Health Secretary and hailed by the Government as an example of good practice.

#hellomynameis has also been mentioned millions of times on Twitter and taken up by hospitals and universities as far afield as the United States and Australia.

The success still surprises Dr Kate Granger, who came up with the idea for the campaign after her own experiences being treated for cancer.

The idea of encouraging all medical staff to simply introduce themselves to their patients, promoting closer relationships and better care, links perfectly to the current focus on treating patients with compassion.

Since the Mid Staffs hospital scandal, the issue has been top of the agenda for NHS bosses.

The Francis report into that trust and wider patient safety issues mentioned the #hellomynameis campaign as an example of how care could be improved by all staff introducing themselves.

“Given that people receiving treatment and care often feel vulnerable already, this imbalance creates an unhelpful and unfortunate gap,” the report said.

“As Kate has pointed out, the NHS employs 1.4m people and many, many of these people interact directly or indirectly with patients at some level. Influencing practice in this small way could have a major impact on the outcomes of care and treatment, not least of all around the patient’s experience of that care.”

Her work was also praised by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said the campaign was “based on the simple but vital courtesy of introducing yourself when meeting a patient for the first time”.

Other politicians have shown their support too, including Labour leader Ed Miliband, stars Ben Cohen and chef Michel Roux Jr have demonstrated their backing while recently even the co-founder of Twitter Biz Stone was photographed holding up a #hellomynameis pledge card.

Now patients can also back the campaign by downloading a song by Leeds student nurse Samuel McPhail. Visit www.nhsemployers.org/case-studies-and-resources/2014/06/the-care-makers-song-trailer.

Every hospital worker in Leeds is to be given the chance to show patients they support #hellomynameis.

Thanks to funding from the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust Charitable Foundation, all staff who pledge their backing will get a specially branded name badge.

It’s one of the ways Dr Kate Granger’s own workplace is getting fully behind it.

“Hopefully will get a bit of a buzz in the hospitals and take the idea back to their workplaces,” she said.

Dr Yvette Oade, chief medical officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals, said: “We’re thrilled to be involved the #hellomynameis campaign which fits with our strategy of ensuring the care we deliver is patient-centred and compassionate. Over the next few weeks, Kate will be coming to speak to our staff at a number of open meetings across our hospitals to share her experiences.

“I’d like to extend my personal thanks to Kate for agreeing to work with us – I’m confident that the roll out of #hellomynameis will make a real difference to the experience of patients visiting our hospitals.