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Caring receptionist pioneers prototype appointment reminders for patients

Dawn Nash, Relief Clerk

by Chris Cunniff

Relief clerk and receptionist Dawn Nash is so determined to help patients keep to their appointments that she has designed and created a unique magnetic reminder, complete with NHS Property Services logo, which is being tested as a prototype in Birmingham.

Dawn has worked for the NHS and then NHS Property Services for 26 years in total and in that time has built strong links with clinicians and the hundreds of patients that she greets every week across numerous clinics.

Missed appointments are an expensive waste for the NHS and also mean that patients can deteriorate if long term health conditions go unchecked.

As a Dementia Friend, Dawn noticed that some patients with memory problems were arriving at the wrong time or on the wrong day for essential checks to manage things like diabetes or podiatry.

She contacted the company’s information line to ask if she could pioneer a reminder system and this was supported by Dennis Markey, Chief Operating Officer, who agreed to fund an initial trial of her own design special fridge magnets with appointment details as a prominent reminder for patients, their carers and families.

Dawn said: “It is such a shame when people arrive on the wrong day for their clinics; they can be very upset and it can affect their health if they miss treatments. The consultants always try to accommodate people turning up late or on the wrong day but it is not always possible. 

“So I did my homework and found out that people with dementia respond well to visual reminders. I tried things like pinning notes inside their jackets but they need something that they can see every day, so it occurred to me that a fridge magnet with date and time written on might work.

“All of my colleagues were very supportive so I designed something that can be written on and then re-used each time. I am really excited to see if it works and we will be monitoring who receives them and their attendances, to see how effective it is.”

As well as dementia patients, Dawn keenly supports older people and those whose first language is not English, to help ensure that they do not miss their appointments.

“I felt that there must be something I can do; something simple I can give these people to take away to remind them at home about their next visit. If this small thing works it will be fantastic for the patients, their families, carers and the clinicians who run the services they need,” said Dawn.

Dawn’s manager, Su Biela, said:  “As a relief clerk, Dawn gets to cover a number of sites in the Birmingham area and realised that appointments of all kinds are being missed at each centre.

“She has worked really hard with this project, identifying patients that would benefit from these fridge magnet reminders.  There is still a lot of work to do, collating numbers and results, but Dawn is eager to follow up on this and see what a difference it has made.

“I am very proud of Dawn for her enthusiasm and dedication to this project.”

Dennis Markey, Chief Operating Officer, said: “Dawn has recognised a need for this simple but effective reminder and is piloting this project with great success. Her patient and customer focus is commendable and I’d like to thank her for her dedication and passion.

“As facilities management experts, our role is to ensure our building environments meet the needs of patients, staff and visitors and Dawn has exceeded this by introducing an idea that could potentially be rolled out across a variety of NHS sites. Great work and I’ll be keen to see how this project continues to progress.”