I was delighted to be asked to talk at the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) yesterday about the patient perspective on fertility treatment – it’s great that this is on the agenda at the College training days and that it is taken so seriously. All too often when a patient perspective is considered, you’ll find it squeezed in at the end of the day on the last day of a meeting and half the audience will slope off to get the early train home, feeling confident that they aren’t going to miss any vital piece of new scientific opinion or advice – but the RCOG had put sessions on the patient perspective and counselling at the heart of their agenda yesterday.
Having spent many years talking to other people about their experiences of fertility treatment, I’ve come to realise that how clinicians deal with their patients is an essential element of their overall service. Some scruffy down-at-heel clinics have received rave reviews from patients because of the care and attention that staff give to their patients, whilst other slick and seemingly professional places are less popular if they don’t seem to give any thought to how people feel about infertility.
I know that when you’re doing a job day in day out, it’s sometimes hard to appreciate quite what significance each word that you say has to your patients and how much is at stake for them with every stage of treatment. Having said that, I’m endlessly amazed at the stories I hear from patients who are paying thousands of pounds for treatment at clinics where they never get to see the same clinician twice, where doctors spend the first five minutes of the appointment flicking through their notes to check who these patients are and where they’re up to and where they end up feeling like a nuisance if they want to ask questions or check information.
Infertility is tough at the best of times, but being treated sympathetically by people who take a few minutes to show that they are thinking about how you feel can make all the difference and I’m just so pleased that the RCOG recognises how important this is.