Meeting the Members

speechmakingI went to my third King’s College Hospital Annual Member Meeting last week. It is my local hospital – see my blog on the last time I was there, placing if not my life then my nose in their hands. Lots of like-minded citizens attended – many wanted to ask questions but were frustrated by the lack of time and there were protests about the cancellation of the presentation on the 5 year forward strategy. The last presentations of three different clinical departments bore the brunt of the late running. Again not much time for questions.

Are King’s making the best of the occasion? What sort of an event would give them a return on their considerable investment of staff time? Lots of them had stayed on late including the Chair of the Board, the Acting Chief Executive and the Finance Director and many senior heads of departments together with the frontline staff manning information tables and offering blood pressure and blood sugar tests.

So was it worth it? Not in its present form – with its uneasy mix of Skool Fair complete with stalls, Speech Day with the headmaster telling us of a difficult but rewarding year. He handed over to the bursar – aka the Finance Director – who was suitably grave but optimistic. All that was missing was the Games master/mistress. The chair of the meeting Robert Walker Kerslake, Baron Kerslake – just call me Lord Bob – encouraged us to ask our questions which meant the main session overran sadly cutting short the amount I could stay at the Dermatology session – wonderfully horrifying photos but no time again for questions/ suggestions.

But the fact remains that this now well established event can evolve into something different as the wealth of questions indicated. So too the disappointment that the billed session on the 5 year forward plan was cut.  The event did not meet member needs – a membership increased and changed by King’s adoption of new sites in places like Orpington – dare one mention the activist middle class? One important symbolic market was the brief contribution from Chris North – Chair of the Governors/ Members. He  did indeed give a short speech but was not one of the three King’s people  on the stage – after saying his piece he resumed his seat amongst us. He should have chaired the whole thing – this is a Member event.

Why don’t he and his fellow Governors run this meeting? This would change it from an exercise in briefing an audience treated as rather unskilled non-executive directors to one that is part of building a sustainable and effective patient participation structure with this meeting as the major patient summit meeting of the year. The only subject on the agenda would be ‘the patient view of the services with presentations based on patient satisfaction – how did we deliver service of rising quality with or without more money? What were the patient benefits of taking on the umpteen extra establishments and how many and in what circumstances will we benefit from a new helicopter landing platform on the roof?

King’s has its fans and supporters and the formal mechanisms to engage and consult with them.  Now it needs to trust them with more of that process letting patient representatives create value for these set-piece occasions, setting an agenda which reflects the issues and asks the questions on patients’ minds – structured for discussion not the ‘Here is the News’ approach . The meeting then becomes a grown-up contribution to the success of a much-loved but very challenged institution. A new chief executive arrives shortly – his first meeting must be with patient representatives to task them with creating next year’s Member event – to be known in future as the Annual Patient and Public Exchange Summit.



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