It wuzzn’t me – how not to apologise to our patients.

You are the Captain so take resposibility for mistakes

If you have ever been delayed at an airport, you will know how annoying and frustrating it can be. You are at the hands of someone else’s mercy and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.

Yesterday I took a flight from London City airport to Edinburgh to attend a conference. The flight was delayed by around and hour and fifty minutes. Normally I would be pretty chilled about the situation and would use the time to get stuck into some work or a glass of Chablis.
Not today, however.

I was totes not amused.


Fundamentally the delay had significant knock-on effects for me. I missed an important clinician networking dinner that had been planned literally months in advance. Arriving circa eleven pm meant the only option for food would be a tray of lukewarm lasagne and even warmer salad, eaten on my bed – sans inspiring company.
Here’s the rub. A certain blue-and-red branded airline, who’s motto ‘to fly, to serve’ (not) –had announced that the delay was due to ‘someone else’s fault’. It wasn’t a broken engine or a security issue – it a totally avoidable delay.

We heard the pilot announce in an irritated voice:

“Folks, we’re not to blame here- we were totally let down by the people who look after wheelchair passengers.”

This did not appease me. It instead got right up my nose.
As a passenger, I don’t care who the airline has a sub-contractual arrangement for their wheelchair handling with. I care whether the flippin’ plane takes off on time.

Private practice Ninja helper  There are lessons to be learned here.

When it comes to making an apology, you can either do it well or do it naffly.
Think how this might apply in your private practice setting.

Picture the scene….

A patient arrives for a follow-up and they’ve been for an MRI, gait analysis, or a treadmill test.
The day they come to your clinic, your IT crashes (proper UK airline stylee) or the results haven’t yet been emailed to you from that nice cardiologist’s secretary. The patient is probably quite anxious- awaiting news that they don’t have a dicky ticker, and yet you get to give them diddly squat – nada – nil – zippo. You are a little embarrassed and ‘faff about’ punching keys on your computer, whilst trying to explain your way out of it.

Low and behold, the patient is also totes not amused.

In fact, it goes down like a cup of cold sick.

What the patient really needs to hear is:

Firstly. A big fat apology. Simply say, “I am Sorry”, and own the apology.

Secondly. Why it happened; clearly, honestly and to the point.

Thirdly. Crucially, you must accept full responsibility for the bad service.

What actually tends to happen, however, is that we are tempted to abdicate the blame.
Even if you genuinely didn’t cause the problem- it’s still your bag. You are the Captain.

Lastly. Grow some broad shoulders and do the un-airline like thing and say “it isn’t good enough”, and really mean it. Then tell them how you will fix it.

Private practice Ninja helper  Patients will often define us at how we handle our mistakes.

They are also very active on social media and will talk about your pants service with their work colleagues over pinot grigio.
One complaint from an unhappy patient could potentially lose you a whole raft of referrals or surgical cases.

Sort your mistakes badly, and news of how you left that patient feeling, really will travel far.

Sort it well and you will be surprised at how much they value you

Because you cared to put it right.

If you need help in ironing out the bumps in the way your practice functions, contact me to talk things through.

I can offer guidance to help your practice really take off – and always on time ; )

Sometimes, we all need a little extra help in building our practices – from a business perspective, as well as a clinical one.

Are looking for guidance and advice ?

Get in touch!

We are waiting to help you gain more patients and boost your referrals



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