Her book is not just about individuals. There are stories about systems, too. A chapter on “Stories and organisations” begins with a comment in a hospital visitors’ book. After describing the delays in treatment for his dying father, the writer said, “I am shocked and amazed that you consider the management of my father’s case and the administration of his treatment to be of a good standard”. In the same chapter, a consultant obstetrician tells the story of a teenage girl who froze to death in the grounds of a hospital after being discharged late in the afternoon, following a miscarriage, “Apparently no one — or at least no one on duty at the time — had known that this unfortunate young woman did not have a home to go back to”. The obstetrician was one of a group of health professionals who were opposing an attempt by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to delete such stories and adopt a more evidence-based approach in their report writing. Facts and figures, the group agreed, are not enough — stories have emotional traction, and emotions drive change.
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