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Blogging, and building hospital morale

Though thousands of good deeds take place in them every day, hospitals often only make the news when something goes wrong. But through online technology and a desire to give people a voice, a Baptist minister is ensuring that the uplifting stories of one particular Trust are being told

The Revd Dr David Southall is the Chaplaincy Team Leader at the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust. Having become aware of a mismatch in perceptions, last year he set up a blog to catalogue all the good that was taking place there: www.revdavidsouthall.com

David Southall blog‘I had so many people telling me about the wonderful treatment they had had at Worcester and seen so much compassion and professionalism on the wards,’ David explains, ‘but just kept reading the negatives on the front pages.

‘I believe in a free press, and the stories they told need telling. But there was no public forum for the good stories. It’s a difficult balance because I did not want to criticise the press for doing its job, but I did want these good stories - who knows, maybe 99per cent? - of people’s experience to be told.’

The reaction, he says, has been ‘fantastic’. The blog has received thousands of hits and its posts are widely circulated through social networks.

Staff and patients have been forthcoming with their stories, enabling him to keep a regular flow of content. He is frequently stopped by staff, grateful that their general activities are being recognised.

‘I was in the shop the other day and a staff member said: “It is great to have the blog; really encouraging. We need to remember all the good things when we get a hammering in the press.” So there is a great pastoral element here.’

The blog also gives patients coming in for a procedure confidence about the hospital. ‘They can look up their own ward and see what others have said, so hopefully it brings a sense of staff and community cohesion. These are our hospitals after all.’

Significantly, it also has the support of the Trust Board. Bev Edgar, Director of Human Resources & Organisational Development, said, ‘We think this is the most fantastic way of patients telling their stories and is a huge boost for staff morale. We have been overwhelmed by the interest shown in the blog by the public and staff – something we could have never anticipated.

‘David is not representing any faith – just stories of decent human kindness, consideration and hopefully good news of patient recovery.

‘We also use the blog to raise awareness of issues such as fund raising for the African maternity link  - and David is always keen to get staff to tell their own stories.’

Chief Executive Penny Venables added, 'I would back up Bev’s comments. David’s blog is so positive and I know is appreciated by the staff across the trust. It is (as David says) not linked to any corporate communications and so is unbiased and not an instrument of the Trust.

'It has really taken off and has had a lot of publicity and interest from local MPs as well as the media and as a Board we are most grateful that David takes time to do this and help build up a positive view of the great care we give every day to our patients across Worcestershire.'

David, who says the blog takes less than 30 minutes each day (‘it’s mainly copying and pasting’), recommends others think about doing similar for their own Trusts. 

‘Anyone in another Trust who wants to publish their good news stories should try it. It’s only chaplain’s blog because I am a chaplain, though it has raised the profile of our service.

‘The main criteria is someone who recognises the huge amount of good work in the hospitals and who has enthusiasm for promoting it.’

Visit David's blog at www.revdavidsouthall.com

Baptist Times, 10/01/2014
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