Getting out and about

We’re making plans to get back out in local communities as soon as it is safe to do so this summer. Our role as independent champion for people who use NHS and social care services involves listening to people from all over the county about their views and experiences of using services such as GPs, dentists, hospitals, mental health services, care homes, pharmacies and NHS 111.

We have done this in lots of ways during the pandemic but speaking directly to people in communities across Northumberland is a big part of what we do. We are now planning how we can get back on the road when government guidelines allow.

Can you tell us how you would feel about us coming along to avenue near you – outside – by answering a few questions? Your feedback will help us make decisions about we work this summer. Thank you.



Getting back on the road

Part of our role here at Healthwatch Northumberland is getting out and about to communities across the county, to hear people's views and experiences of using NHS and social care services.

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Covid-19 Vaccination Programme

Covid-19 Vaccination Programme

In response to some of the questions people in Northumberland have raised about the Covid-19 vaccination programme, NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has put together a series of short videos. These will hopefully address some of the common concerns we have been hearing about the vaccination programme.

The CCG is responsible for the planning and buying of local NHS services for people in Northumberland.

In the videos, Richard Hay, Head of Planning and Operations at Northumberland CCG talks about how the Covid-19 vaccination programme is going in the county, addresses concerns over supply and safety of the vaccine, and how people will be contacted with an appointment for to get theirs.


One minute videos:

Why am I being offered an appointment for my vaccination so far away?

Should we be worried about the supply of the Covid-19 vaccine in Northumberland?

Why isn’t there a large vaccination centre in Northumberland?

Are people in Northumberland having to wait longer for their Covid-19 vaccination than people in other parts of the country?

Is the Covid-19 vaccination safe?

Why am I being told not to contact my GP about my vaccination appointment?

If I’ve had my Covid-19 vaccine, why can’t I mix with other people?


Podcast: How the vaccination programme is going in Northumberland, with Richard Hay of Northumberland CCG.


Visit our Covid-19 Information Page

Yoga class

Wellbeing sessions from Northumberland Recovery College

Northumberland Recovery College is offering a range of free courses and workshops to support people with their mental health and wellbeing.

What is a recovery college?

A recovery college is not a building or a place, it’s an opportunity to become your own expert in what works to manage your wellbeing. The college provides learning experiences, mutual support, and activities at a pace that is right for you.

Details of upcoming sessions are below and will take place via Zoom. To book a place please email:

All On Board Families: Tuesday 13 April, 2pm and Thursday 22 April, 2pm. Practical skills for your family to stay connected while supporting your child.

Mindfulness: Thursday 29 April, 10.30am. Introduction to what mindfulness is, how it helps so many people and how to use mindfulness in your own day-to-day life by practicing it in fun and creative ways.

Yin & Yang Yoga: Monday 3 May, 1.30pm. Four-week gentle yoga practice for all levels and abilities.


Find out more about Northumberland Recovery College.

Mental Health Support and Services

care home visits Northumberland

Visits out of care homes

The latest guidance on care home visiting applies from 12 April. On visits out of care homes the government says:

Spending time out of the care home has always been an important part of life for many people living in residential care. This might include visits with friends and family to outdoor spaces and leisure venues, or to celebrate special occasions.

For some residents, regular visits may be part of their care plan – accessing care and support in day services, participating in community groups and volunteering. For many residents of working age, this might include regular overnight visits to the family home.

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that much of this visiting out of the care home has had to stop.

As part of the roadmap out of lockdown – guided by the data – we want to enable care home residents to enjoy a range of trips out of the care home, wherever it is safe and proportionate to do so.

We recognise how important this is for residents’ health and wellbeing, their ability to remain at the heart of family and social networks; and in some cases to deliver the objectives of their care plan.

However, spending time with others outside the care home will increase the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for the resident and potentially to other vulnerable residents on their return. This is the case even as we see community infection rates dropping and vaccine coverage increasing.

Whereas it is possible to mitigate and manage infection risks within the controlled environment of the care home – including by testing anyone coming into the home – it is simply not possible to control the environment outside of the care home in the same way.

This means that there is still the need for some measures to manage the risk of residents returning from visits bringing infection into the care home environment.

This guidance sets out the approach that care homes should take to planning and supporting visits out of the home where residents wish to make them. It explains the measures that should be taken – by the home, the resident and others taking part in the visit – to manage the risks.

The most significant of these is the requirement that a resident making a visit out of the care home should isolate for 14 days on their return (the day of return is day zero). This is to ensure that – in the event they have unknowingly become infected while out of the home – they minimise the chances of passing that infection on to other residents and staff.

We recognise that in practice, this is likely to mean that many residents will not wish to make a visit out of the home.

Read the full guidance on visits out of care homes

Visit our Covid-19 Information Page

Covid-19 Vaccinations: April 2021

Covid-19 Vaccinations Northumberland

As we head into April, priority for vaccinations in Northumberland is being given to those who are due their second dose, with any extra available vaccinations going to those in priority groups 1 – 9 who are yet to have a first dose. People in groups 1 – 9 will continue to be invited for their vaccination in age order.

If you are due a second dose in the next few weeks and haven’t yet got an appointment, look out for a text message and keep an ear out for the telephone as you will be contacted soon.

Please don’t call your GP practice to ask when you will get an invitation to be vaccinated. Vaccination centres and GP practices have no control over supplies coming into the county and so are unable to tell patients when they might be invited to make an appointment. Your surgery still want to hear from you if you have an urgent medical issue.

Noone will be forgotten and everyone who would like a vaccination will be offered one over the coming weeks and months.

Government information on the Covid-19 vaccination programme

Covid-19 information for Northumberland

Kooth Q&A

Providing information about local health and care services is part of the core work of Healthwatch Northumberland, and mental health services for children and young people is one of our key priorities.

In June 2020 NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) commissioned Kooth, a free online mental health support service for young people aged 11-25 years.

Watch this video to find out more.

We were therefore delighted to host an online seminar on 10 March 2021 with Malcolm Connelly, Engagement Lead at Kooth who told us about how the service works and how parents, carers and professionals can signpost young people to it.

Below are the questions from the audience and Malcolm’s answers which include links to the Kooth site and how to contact Malcolm for more information.

If you or a young person you know have used Kooth, we would like to hear about your experience. Share your feedback with us.


How can parents check the suitability of Kooth?

There are demos available to see what the site looks like from a user’s perspective however the content will look different depending on the age of the child. A demo can be arranged by emailing Malcolm Connelly ( There is also information on the Kooth website and Malcolm has put together a parents’ information letter.

Kooth follows strict safeguarding guidelines and young people will only speak to trained counsellors when using the platform. Any discussion is via pre-moderated threads.

How can I get resources to share to promote Kooth?

If you work for an organisation which supports children and young people, get in touch with Malcolm to add your details to his database of contacts. There are also A4 posters and wallet size cards available. Visit the Kooth Promotion Hub to find resources to promote Kooth.

Do you promote Kooth to schools and youth groups?

Yes, Malcolm does presentations in schools and for youth groups although it is more difficult at the moment with restrictions. Malcolm is currently only able to offer virtual presentations but is hoping to get back into schools later in the year.

What does Kooth mean?

During initial discussions about what to call the platform, a group of young people took the word ‘uncouth’ and flipped it to the more positive ‘Kooth’.

What is the adult equivalent of Kooth?

Qwell. This is currently only available to teachers and support staff in Northumberland.

Is there any data to show the positive impact that Kooth is having on young people and what are the recurring themes?

Monthly and quarterly reports are sent to the CCG which commissions Kooth, however these have to be requested and authorised for anyone else who would like to see them.

Is there any reason for Kooth starting at 11 years old?

This age was agreed with the CCG and is relevant as it is the start of secondary school. Around the age of 11 or 12 children are old enough to understand more and benefit from the support service. Gillick competency is assessed (more details here).

Is Kooth safe for autistic people?

Kooth is a safe space but we understand some young people may struggle with the text-based service and are constantly working to make Kooth fully accessible for all.

You mentioned face-to-face interventions. How does that work?

This is not currently available in the North East.

Are you getting into schools at the moment with the current restrictions?

Yes, but not as much as usual. Malcolm is hoping to get back into schools regularly by September.


Find out more about the support available for children and young people in Northumberland.

Is NHS 111 First making a difference?

From 1 December 2020, the NHS has introduced a new system called NHS 111 First. This means that NHS 111 can now book you an appointment at your local A&E or get you an urgent appointment at an alternative health service. The NHS 111 First campaign encourages people to call NHS 111 before going to emergency departments.

During COVID-19, people have relied on NHS 111 more than ever to get urgent medical advice. Healthwatch England’s latest research looks at people’s experiences of NHS 111 and awareness of the new A&E time slot booking service.

Find out more about NHS 111 First

To better understand public attitudes towards NHS 111, including awareness of the new services offered by NHS 111 First, and support the best possible roll-out of this new service, Healthwatch England commissioned YouGov to run a UK representative online poll of 2076 adults (18+) between 27 – 28 January 2021.

Through the Healthwatch network, the views of over 400 people who had used NHS 111 in the last six months were also recorded.

  • The majority (84%) of polling respondents said that they were aware that they could call NHS 111 for urgent medical advice. Almost three-quarters (70%) agreed that they were more likely to call NHS 111 than go straight to an emergency department when they had an urgent medical problem.
  • More than three out of four people who had used the service and got through to an advisor (79%) felt they had got the help they needed.
  • Almost three quarters (72%) of those that have used the service agreed that they generally had positive experiences when they called NHS 111​, while 12% disagreed and 13% were neutral.
  • Not feeling confident in the advice given by NHS 111 call handlers was a common issue. Only 55% of all polling respondents said they felt confident that when they phoned the service, the person they spoke to would be qualified to help them.
  • Those who did use NHS 111 First and had a timeslot booked for them at A&E were highly likely to rate their experience as very good, suggesting that that the new system is working when people are given the option.
  • However, awareness of the new service is low. 80% of polling respondents were not aware that NHS 111 could reserve timeslots at GPs and 73% were not aware they could reserve timeslots at A&E.

Read the full report


Eating Disorder Northumberland

Eating Distress Support

Family and Friends Support Group from NIWE

NIWE is a north east charity offering support for anyone whose life is affected by eating distress, whether they are having difficulties themselves or supporting someone. All services are free and confidential.

Eating disorders can have a huge impact, not just on the individuals who are experiencing them, but also on their friends and family. Equally friends and family can have a really positive impact on someone’s recovery. It can be extremely distressing and stressful watching a loved one struggling in this way, and so NIWE provides a monthly support group for friends and families

The sessions are for all parents, carers and friends who are supporting a loved one who is living with eating distress. Sessions are held on the second Tuesday of the month, currently online via Zoom, from 6.00pm – 7.30pm.

This is a safe and confidential space to come together to share experiences, ideas and to offer mutual support. The group is facilitated by a NIWE practitioner and there is a strong focus in the sessions on developing resilience, positive coping mechanisms and self-care.

The aim is for the group to be self-determining, deciding and developing its own programme, with support, for members to grow together, offering mutual support, combatting isolation, ensuring self-care to enable their vital role supporting steps towards recovery of their loved one with eating disorder/distress.

For further information or to register, contact NIWE by email:


Find more support for a range of issues at our Find Services Page

Young Carers Northumberland

Young Carers Action Day

What is Young Carers Action Day?

Young Carers Action Day is an annual event, organised by Carers Trust and this year the theme is ‘Protect Young Carers Futures’. This year the event takes place on 16 March. The Action Day is now in its sixth year, and aims to raise awareness of young carers and the incredible contribution they make to their families and local communities. The awareness day is being promoted on social media from

How can Young Carers access support in Northumberland?

Carers Northumberland is a local charity that support carers across Northumberland. Their Young Carers Service supports young people up to the age of 18. Young Carers can access:

  • A Young Carers Worker, who offers 1-1 support, information and advice to Young Carers
  • An Active Northumberland pass – Young Carers aged 8-18 can access a free leisure pass
  • Young Carers grant – a small grants scheme is available; grants are awarded for young carers to take a break from their caring responsibilities
  • Young Carers needs assessment, and impact assessments – these assessments can help plan support for young people
  • Access to a specialist 16 plus worker who can help Young Carers, with their education choices, CV’s and accessing employment
  • A regular newsletter
  • Young Carer ID cards

If you would like to access the service or more information please contact:

Anne-Marie Johnstone, Young Carers Support Worker:

Tel: 01670 320 026

Mob: 07500 886 319



If you would like to tell us your experiences of using NHS or social care services as a carer please get in touch.