There's something I don't like. 'Quelle surprise!' (that's your actual French) I hear you cry. It's when people start emails off like this:
Blah blah blah. Message message message.
Now, for all I know they might not have been frowning when they wrote their message, or not trying to juggle a dozen things at once like the super-duper power-exec they like to think they are. They might have been perfectly happy and sipping a frappuccino and nibbling on a rocky road for all I know (Mmm, rocky road! I'm currently doing a Homer Simpson gag/drool face as I picture those two items...) But somehow – call me over-sensitive – that lonesome 'Ashley' without a salutation (and especially with the full stop) makes them sound a bit narky.
It's as if they're saying to me, "I don't have time for pleasantries – and I want to make it clear that my interest in you is a formal one at best – and I'm looking at you in a disdainful and superior manner at worst."
The simple addition of "dear", "hi", or "hello" changes the whole tone of an email. In my eyes, at least. Even "hi" or "hello" without the inclusion of my name is fine with me if it's someone I know and we're in regular contact. Not that I need everyone to go overboard with the salutations, mind. If I'm having an ongoing email exchange with someone, I don't need to be Hi Ashleyed on every message. But you get my drift.
So it was with interest today that I heard a news bulletin about Dr Kate Granger, a hospital consultant, who started the "Hello my name is..." campaign while she was being treated for cancer. Whilst undergoing her treatment, she was struck by how the doctor delivering the tragic news that her rare and aggressive form of cancer had spread didn't even look her in the eye, let alone give her his name. Rude? Yes. Uncaring? Yes. Deliberate? Possibly not, if I'm feeling very generous. Acceptable? No. Common? Unfortunately, yes. All too common.
“The lack of introductions really made me feel like just a diseased body and not a real person,” said Dr Granger.
How appalling is that? To make someone feel like nothing more than “a diseased body” just when they need more care at that point in their lives than ever before? At this truly terrible time, the very people who were supposed to be caring for her showed no sign that they did.
The campaign, with the Twitter hashtag #hellomynameis, is to promote the simple idea that healthcare workers introducing themselves to their patients is not only a nice thing to do; it's a vital thing to do.
Endorsed by leading public figures including David Cameron and Bob Geldof, #hellomynameis has become a nationwide campaign. More than 400,000 healthcare professionals including administration and support staff across the NHS have pledged their support. And the Scottish government also stated that it was allocating £40,000 to NHS boards across the country in order to roll out the campaign.
I completely sympathise with Dr Granger. Although I've never had anything remotely as severe as cancer, I have been prodded in hospital a number of times as a patient, and have accompanied close family members under very serious circumstances. On at least two occasions, I have complained to the NHS about the shoddy attitude I experienced, by consultants and support staff alike.
The #hellomynameis campaign is in essence a good idea – and if it makes Dr Granger's experience better, and that of everybody else that has had to put themselves under the care of healthcare workers – then yes, its growth and publicity is a good thing. But I can't help thinking...
£40,000 on a campaign that essentially just tells some people to be a bit nicer to other people, particularly when they're having a distressing time? Isn't that a bit...obvious?
I mean, hang on a second – let's analyse it. The medical profession is, surely, the caring profession, right? People are ill; doctors and nurses are supposed to care for them. No? And yet somebody needs to train them now to be nice? I'm baffled. And yet I know the reality is that Dr Granger's experience (and indeed my experience) is far from uncommon.
Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, called the campaign inspiring. "All patients should be treated with compassion,” he said. No argument from me there. "We know that doctors and nurses within the NHS are doing more than ever to provide safe and compassionate care and this movement is harnessing their energy."
Hm. They're doing more than ever, are they? Apparently not, otherwise the campaign wouldn't be necessary. Here's a thought, though: can't healthcare workers just try to...well, CARE more and be a bit nicer? If a campaign costing £40,000 IS necessary to get these people to introduce themselves - which is simply courteous on the most basic level - then the NHS has bigger fundamental problems than we thought.
Note, bearing in mind tarring and brushes: I have several friends who are doctors, and I also know support staff in the NHS. And they are lovely people.
Ashley is a copywriter, editor and blogger