In ‘Journey of a patient editor’ ( BMJ 2013;347:f6913) Tessa Richards gives a memorable account of her experience as a patient with adrenal cancer. It’s heart wrenching to read what she went through, but also heart-warming – because she has been brave enough to tell us how it REALLY was for her.
When doctors speak out about their own experiences of healthcare which include sub-optimal care, it encourages others to do so. This contributes to the overall picture, validates lay people’s patient stories and helps to move healthcare closer towards a culture of genuine openness, in which staff will feel able to speak out without fear of reprisals if patient safety is at risk or something has gone wrong.
In another article in the same issue (Tell us how it was for you BMJ 2013;347:f6872 ) Tessa Richards refers to http://www.patientopinion.org.uk where patients’ stories can be shared and, more importantly, may be used to improve healthcare.
‘If the quality of cancer care is to be built on a triad of effectiveness, safety and patient experience, it is this last element that is least accessible to the caring professions, unless writers like Mitzi share their accounts with us’ wrote Professor A Niroshan Siriwardena, School of Health and Social Care, University of Lincoln, in a review of ‘Nothing Personal, disturbing undercurrents in cancer care’ (Quality in Primary Care 2009).