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Valuing 350,000 patients’ time

In the latest of a series of blogs on supporting our staff campaign to reducing long hospital stays, called Where best next?, the Director of Health Service 360 UK discusses the importance of giving people back precious days to spend with those they love most:

For the 350,000 people who each wait 21 or more days in NHS hospitals to get back to the place they call home, every day counts.

When combined, those days add up to an eye-watering 959 years. For women, whose life expectancy is 83 and men, whose life expectancy is 79, that’s the equivalent of 11 and 12 lifetimes respectively – each and every day.

By day 21, an aggregate 21,137 years – 231 women’s and 255 men’s lifetimes – will have passed, not much of it in healing, most of it in waiting.

For those with many more days behind them than ahead of them, it’s a time that’s not available to be wasted and while we may sometimes treat older people like they have all the time in the world, looked at differently, they are the ones in a hurry.

Reducing length of stay is about much more than avoiding needless harm, stopping patients languishing on corridors in emergency departments, or operations being cancelled due to a lack of available beds. To my mind, reducing length of stay is about giving people back their time to spend more of those precious days with those they love most.

Reducing length of stay is also an appeal to what great Irish nursing leader Deirdre Lang has described as ‘our future selves’. One tomorrow morning we could wake up in a hospital bed as an older person and we, too, would want our time valued as sacred and treated as the most important currency in healthcare.

That is why, more than we sometimes believe, it’s in our gift to create a health system where we put our energy into the things that we can control and do something about.

In doing so we could:

  • create a million stories of change
  • become social millionaires committing a million acts of kindness
  • value patients’ time
  • offer dignity, autonomy, kindness and humanity to those around us, not least the most vulnerable, and
  • remind ourselves why we came into healthcare.

Each and every day.

Underpinning Where Best Next is this question: If you had 1,000 days left to live, how many would you choose to spend in hospital? The answer for almost everyone is ‘None’ and Where Best Next would be ‘Home First’.

As we change our system to value patients’ time, when it comes to our own last 1000 days we can look back and say with pride: “I did my bit to return time back to people whose time was precious, to be with the ones they loved most”.

We will know we mattered; to our families and loved ones, to our communities and to the professions we loved, and those to whom we devoted many thousands of our own precious days.

And in the end, we can say to ourselves that we led remarkable life.

Professor Brian Dolan, OBE

Professor Brian Dolan OBE is Director of Health Service 360, UK, Visiting Prof of Nursing, Oxford Institute of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Research and Honorary Professor of Leadership in Healthcare, University of Salford.

With Lynda Holt, CEO, Health Service 360 he recently co-hosted the 72-hour #EndPJparalysis Global Online Summit, in collaboration with Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, ECIST, NHS Horizons, Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, US #EveryBODYmoves and Safer Care, Victoria, Australia.

All the presentations can be viewed free at https://endpjparalysis.org

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