FOR every complaint about Hinchingbrooke Hospital there are hundreds of patients who pass through the wards without a grumble or moan. The quiet majority are the success story, but the people who raise their complaints are helping to make Hinchingbrooke

FOR every complaint about Hinchingbrooke Hospital there are hundreds of patients who pass through the wards without a grumble or moan.

The quiet majority are the success story, but the people who raise their complaints are helping to make Hinchingbrooke a better place for patients and staff.

If you got a complaint about Hinchingbrooke, then they want to know.

The Huntingdon hospital has set up a number of initiatives as a direct consequence of patient feedback.

Three of the latest are:

Volunteers are now being offered training to feed patients on the wards, after complaints that some elderly people cannot feed themselves.

A committee has been set up to look at more short-stay parking after complaints that the minimum fee is £2.60 for three hours.

An initiative called "Make Time to Care" has started looking at ways nurses can streamline what they do to spend more time with individual patients.

For people who recall a 'golden age' of the NHS, the initiatives would seem alien but nursing has changed since the 60s and the day of the battleaxe matron.

Matrons have evolved through a number of stages and are now today's lead nurses, who are in charge of two or three wards.

Today's lead nurses are typically working mothers.

Lead nurse for emergency services, Debbie Stewart, 47, a nurse for 30 years, told The Hunts Post: "Things have changed, but then the same ideas come round again, like the role of the matron."

One of the changes is in routines at hospital, which are now driven by the patient.

"It is particularly important for dementia patients that they have the routine they are used to at home. If their relatives are able to come in and feed them, that's good but their relatives tend to have lives of their own."

Having a degree doesn't mean you move away from patients, she said. "No matter how high I get, I am still working with commodes - that's part of the job."

There is patient choice now. Today's patients can even chose which hospital they are treated at. Hinchingbrooke patients come from as far away as Cardiff.

Pam Crozier, lead nurse for elective surgery, said: "Patients have choice and they use it. They look on the internet and see where is best for what."

Mrs Crozier, 47, began her training on the wards at 17.

"It was scary being in charge of a ward of patients - especially at night but you learned your craft - my mum didn't believe I would stick it. She said: 'You'll have to do horrible things.'"

Currently taking her masters at Anglian Ruskin University, she says the academic work enhances rather than detracts from giving practical nursing care.

"You need to keep up with medical developments and it makes you think differently. You think about what you are doing, you don't do things just because sister says but because of the evidence. In the old days, you were scared of sister. You were called by your surname."

Complaints that today's nurses do not have time to care for their patients have led to the Make Time to Care scheme being introduced at Hinchingbrooke Hospital.

Lisa Shacklock, project manager, says the idea is to look at everything from the way things are stored in cupboards (so nurses have to spend less time finding equipment) to whether (for example) nurses need to take patients to x-ray or whether the x-ray staff should fetch them.

"Traditional nursing care is what patients want and that is what we wish to provide. We want feedback from patients, good or bad. Tell us because we are listening."

INFORMATION: To volunteer to train for patient feeding call 01480 416740. To make a formal complaint about Hinchingbrooke Hospital contact the Patients Liaison Service on 0800 279 2535, e-mail: pals@cambridgeshirepct.nhs.uk or write to Patients Liaison Service, Block 23, Ida Darwin, Fulbourn, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB21 5EE.