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I read recently that £12.6m worth of magazines get stolen every year from waiting rooms. I appreciate some patients wait longer than others to be seen by their GP or other Healthcare professional, so having something to read to occupy the time makes sense, but I cannot bear to see torn, frayed and half chewed paper publications that are often strewn around waiting rooms. I am talking about non medical waiting rooms too, but why on earth would someone want to steal them? Nevertheless, it appears that GP Practices are only able to offer old magazines in waiting rooms because patients steal the newer ones, rather than because the Practice only provide dated publications.
Whilst I don’t like seeing out of date tattered and torn magazines lying around the place, I also feel that some of the magazines we put in our waiting rooms can have an adverse effect on the care we are trying to provide. Most magazines are aimed at middle aged women with pages and pages of glossy pictures and contain a faultless, smiling, confident looking woman or celebrity on the cover. There are cover stories and headlines such as ‘Lose half a stone in 7 days’ or ‘How to get whiter teeth with lemons’, or some other bizarre claim. The captions that particularly concern me are the “My medical horror story” which often paint a dreadful picture of one patient’s experience of the NHS. These publications know that the Healthcare provider is unable to respond to the claims because of patient confidentiality, and how fairly does the article really reflect the evidence? These magazines do serve a purpose whilst people wait, but I think we should be more conscious of what we are encouraging our patients to read.
Create your own spin
When we had the swine flu pandemic 5 years ago it was a perfect opportunity to have a good clear out and get rid of all magazines and unnecessary leaflets from our waiting rooms. It was probably the dawn of TV’s in waiting rooms showing targeted and repeated healthcare matters with a convenient opportunity for patients to find out what services the Practice offered and when whilst they waited. I think it’s a good thing to occupy patients’ minds whilst they wait, it distracts from the often private discussion between staff and patients at the Reception desk or between other patients who are also waiting, but we can ensure they view our Practices positively by showing the good things we do all the time. I intend to put the results of our Friends and Family Test results on the waiting room screen to showcase how likely patients are to recommend us to others, and ensure that our audit results are shared with patients so they can make their own mind up if we provide a good service or not, without media spin and negativity.