Woman talking to pharmacist

Pharmacy Survey

Northumberland County Council is currently updating its Pharmacy Needs Assessment. This document describes how many pharmacies we have in the county, the hours they are open and the services they provide. It does not provide the public or patient’s perspective about pharmacy services and how they use them. By answering the questions below, this will help provide this part of the jigsaw.

As the independent champion for people who use health and social care services, we want to make sure your views are considered when services are being designed.

We would like to learn more about your experience of, and thoughts about, improving or changing pharmacy services in our community. Pharmacy services are either services you receive in your community pharmacy or from a dispensary in your GP practice. We would be grateful if you could complete the questionnaire below. The survey will be open until 31 January 2018.

Pharmacies Survey

group of stick people

Great North Care Record – update

We hosted two consultation events in November on behalf of Connected Health Cities (CHC). The purpose of these sessions was to create opportunities for a small pilot group of residents from Northumberland to hear about the Great North Care Record (GNCR) project and to share their views and suggestions with the project team. The GNCR team wants to understand the circumstances in which people across Cumbria and the North East would be prepared to share their health data.

The first meeting took place in Berwick on Tuesday, 7 November and the second meeting was held in Ashington on Thursday 16 November 2017.  A total of 35 residents were present at these sessions and individuals who were unable to attend in person sent in  questions and comments. Similar workshops have been hosted by other local Healthwatch across the region.

What was the workshop about?

Each workshop began with a presentation from a member of the CHC team. Attendees were told that NHS healthcare professionals across the North East and North Cumbria region are teaming up to improve the way patient information is shared to improve health outcomes for patients.

The GNCR is a project whereby GP practices, hospitals, universities, community and mental health trusts have teamed up to improve the way patient information is shared to improve health outcomes for patients.

Historically, different NHS organisations have developed a range of individual systems to store patient records. This means important information held in one part of the health care system might not be readily available to other health care professionals. The team at GNCR believe a co-ordinated approach to sharing information through the development of a secure integrated system which shares key medical information will result in an improved patient experience.


The Connected Health Cities team wanted to:

  • Ensure attendees understood what happens currently
  • Understand attendee’s views on sharing their medical information
  • Understand how attendees would like to control who sees their healthcare information
  • Help attendees understand how access to healthcare data can help researchers


After the presentation, attendees were asked the following questions:

Would you allow different NHS organisations to access your information?

How would you feel about other agencies involved in healthcare having access, such as social care, the voluntary sector, and the police?

How do you feel about researchers accessing your data, by a data donor register for instance?


Everyone who attended these events made a positive contribution, raising questions and concerns but also offering ideas and solutions. A record of all contributions has been produced by Healthwatch Northumberland and Teesside University. This has been shared with the CHC team and will influence the future direction of the Great North Care Record.

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to everyone who gave up their time to share their views and opinions regarding this important development. The CHC team was extremely impressed by the knowledgeable and insightful discussions which took place at each workshop.


Next Steps

Workshops around the GNCR are still taking place across the region. Once these are complete, CHC will contact everyone who took part to issue thanks and keep those who would like to be, updated with the work as it proceeds and let people know how they can be involved in future developments.




Older lady with carer

Carewatch Home Care

Northumberland County Council and Carewatch, a contracted provider of home care services, have agreed that the current contract will transfer to Age UK, by the 18th December 2017.

Northumberland County Council, Age UK Northumberland and Carewatch are working to make this transfer as smooth as possible for people receiving services.

If you experience any problems with your care, or would like to speak to a social worker or care manager about any concerns you have about the transfer, please contact them through Northumberland County Council’s single point of access, telephone: 01670 536400.

If you need an urgent response out of hours please call: 01670 827100. This number is available 24 hours a day/seven days per week.

Pharmacist and customer

Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment

A pharmaceutical needs assessment (PNA) describes the health needs of the population, current pharmaceutical services provision and any gaps in that provision. It also identifies potential new services to meet health needs and help achieve the objectives of the strategic plan, while taking account of financial constraints. The PNA will be used to:
  • inform commissioning plans about pharmaceutical services that could be provided by community pharmacists and other providers to meet local need;
  • support commissioning of high quality pharmaceutical services;
  • ensure that pharmaceutical and medicines optimisation services are commissioned to reflect the health needs and ambitions outlined within the joint strategic needs assessment;
  • facilitate opportunity for pharmacists to make a significant contribution to the health of the population of Northumberland; and
  • ensure that decisions about applications for market entry for pharmaceutical services are based on robust and relevant information.
This is not a stand-alone document. It is aligned with the joint strategic needs assessment (JSNA) and Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group’s Five Year Plan. It will be used as a tool to inform future service developments aimed at meeting the objectives of the strategic plan e.g., delivering care in the most appropriate setting, reducing reliance on hospital care, supporting those with long term conditions, promoting wellbeing and preventing ill-health, and improving access to primary care.
Community Matters

Community Matters sessions from Talking Matters

Community Matters sessions are weekly community drop-in sessions from Talking Matters Northumberland. Sessions take place at venues across the county where everyone is welcome to come along and meet new people in a safe space. Activities and free tea and coffee are always on offer.


Community Matters Drop-in Sessions

Prudhoe: The Spetchells Centre, Mondays 10.00am -12.00pm

Hexham: Hexham Abbey (Etheldreda room), Tuesdays 10.00am – 2.00pm

Berwick: The William Elder Building, Tuesdays 1.30pm – 4.00pm

Ashington: Hirst Welfare Centre, Wednesdays 9.30am -12.00pm

Cramlington: Welcome Methodist Church, Wednesday 12.00pm – 3.00pm

Morpeth: Morpeth Methodist Church,  Wednesdays 2.00pm – 4.30pm

Blyth: Blyth Community Enterprise Centre, Fridays 9.30am – 12.00pm



Group of people walking outdoors

Funding success for Talking Matters

Talking Matters Northumberland and project partner Active Northumberland (with support from Northumberland Sport) has been given £142,000 of National Lottery funding from Sport England to help volunteers make a positive contribution to mental health outcomes in the county, using sport and physical activity.

Sport England’s ‘Opportunity Fund’ encourages people to volunteer to help tackle challenges their communities face. Projects are being funded in areas that may experience economic disadvantage, ranging from inner-city areas with high levels of crime and social exclusion, to remote rural areas with few services. By getting involved, the volunteers will also benefit by developing their own skills, confidence plus improved wellbeing.

About the project

The three year project will enable Talking Matters, who provide the NHS Talking Therapy service in Northumberland, to recruit volunteers from the local community to help adults with mental health issues take up a sport or physical activity. Talking Matters will employ two Volunteer Coordinators based in Hexham and Alnwick who will recruit and manage the volunteers. The volunteers will support adults of all ages, referred to them by Talking Matters or their GP. The volunteers, who will be fully trained, will provide one to one support to encourage people to participate in a sport or physical activity as a way of improving their mental health.

Steve Patterson of Talking Matters says, “There is a growing body of evidence that being physically active is good for your mental health as it can help recovery, build resilience and sustain good mental wellbeing.  However, that first step is often the hardest, particularly for individuals who may be anxious, lack self confidence, worry about meeting new people or have other worries such as body image or low fitness levels. By supporting individuals on a one to one basis, the volunteers will help them find an activity that is right for them.  Working together the volunteers will help people overcome their concerns and support them on their journey to full and active participation in a sport or physical activity.”

Project partners Active Northumberland will work with the volunteers, sports clubs, leisure centres and other activity providers (yoga, keep fit, walking, cycling groups etc.) to identify suitable opportunities in the local community.

As part of the project Tyneside and Northumberland Mind will provide Sport England approved ‘Mental Health Awareness for Sports and Physical Activity’ training to sports and activity providers to improve their support for individuals with mental health issues. The training will help the sports community achieve the Sport and Recreation Alliance Mental Health Charter.

Northumberland County Council has awarded the project a grant of £30,000 and further financial support has come from Northumberland Sport and Hexham and Alnwick Town Councils. Public Health Northumberland. Northumberland CCG, Northumberland and Tyne & Wear Foundation Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority have all added their support to the project. Local sports clubs and GP practices have also supported the project bid.

Northumberland County Councillor, Veronica Jones, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Adult Wellbeing and Health says, “This funding award from Sport England  is really great news for the county. It provides us with a fantastic opportunity to use volunteering and social action as part of an exciting new approach to supporting adults experiencing mental health issues. Regular exercise has been proven to have a profoundly positive impact on depression and anxiety. In fact, being active is one of the most important things people can do to maintain health and wellbeing. We are looking forward to working with, and supporting all those involved in this new project.”

Sport England’s Director of Sport, Phil Smith, says, “When people volunteer in sport and physical activity there is a dual benefit – volunteers help others in their communities to get active, as well as benefiting themselves. Volunteering can do wonders for job and career prospects, mental health and making friends. That’s why volunteering sits at the heart of Sport England’s new strategy, ‘Towards an Active Nation’. We’re delighted to be helping Talking Matters and Active Northumberland to enable more volunteers to be the catalysts for change in their neighbourhood.”

The project was the brainchild of Gordon Allan who following the loss of his wife Sally in 2015 has become an advocate for improving mental health in the north east. Gordon, who lives in Northumberland, was instrumental in pulling the project together and building the support from the various stakeholders. He says, “The project has been funded by individuals through the National Lottery. We are grateful for their support and look forward to giving something back by improving mental health outcomes in the county. With the support of the local communities we believe that over three years we can help over 1,500 people. I know walking has helped me when I have been struggling to cope with the loss of Sally”.

To find out more about thee project contact Talking Matters.

Lady with headscarf talking to a doctor

You asked us about Cold Caps

Healthwatch Northumberland was contacted by someone who reported that cold cap hadn’t been available for them during cancer treatment at Hexham General Hospital. The cold cap is a special cap filled with cold gel that can reduce hair loss caused by chemotherapy. It works by reducing the amount of chemotherapy drugs reaching the hair follicles.

We contacted some local groups for more information and were invited to attend a coffee morning held by the Northumberland Cancer Support Group. The people we spoke to seemed sure there is in fact a cold cap available at Hexham Hospital. Some people told us that they were offered the cold cap treatment but declined because of potential drawbacks and limited success rates;  others told us that because of the type of cancer and its severity, they had not been eligible for this type of treatment.

We also met a volunteer with Macmillan Cancer Support at the coffee morning, who agreed to ask some questions when she was next at the hospital.  The volunteer got back in touch with the following information:

“Hexham Oncology Day Unit has two cold caps.  These are offered to patients and are readily available as appointments can be made to accommodate everyone.  Usually the patient’s consultant would have discussed the situation with them beforehand.”

“Everyone is eligible but the consultant may be of the opinion that the patient could be at risk of metastasis to the brain if taking a certain drug during treatment.”

Healthwatch Northumberland also spoke to the staff on the Macmillan Cancer Support bus which was visiting Hexham at the time.  They suggested two useful websites for further information on hair loss during treatment:


Breast Cancer Care

Macmillan Cancer Support


Further research concluded that it is the decision of the individual cancer specialist whether or not the cold cap is suitable for a patient.  Cold cap treatment is not available for use during radiotherapy.  It can be used with chemotherapy but if the chemotherapy treatment is very strong or if the patient has very long periods of chemotherapy treatment, the cold cap will not be suitable.  In short, the severity of the cancer and the strength of the treatment will determine whether the cold cap is recommended.

Couple in a doctors surgery

10 Top Tips for your GP appointment

We know from our conversations with the public that some patients report feeling rushed during appointments and struggle to make themselves heard. As appointment times can be limited, Healthwatch has pulled together some top suggestions that could help you get the most out of visiting your GP.


  • Is your issue urgent? Do you need to see a specific GP?
    Is it important you are seen quickly or would you rather wait for an appointment with a particular GP? If you have a long-term illness would you benefit from seeing a GP who knows your history personally?
  • Take notes to help you
    Before you see your GP, be clear in your own mind what you want to say. Make a note of your symptoms, worries and any questions that you would like to ask.
  • Many problems? See if you can book a double appointment
    If you have a number of issues that you would like to discuss with your GP, see whether it is possible to book a double appointment to give you more time to talk them through.
  • Take a list of your medicines – prescribed or otherwise
    Bring a list of any medication you are taking, including over-the-counter and/or alternative medicines, or anything prescribed after a hospital visit.  This includes tablets, liquids or creams. Your GP needs to know about everything you are taking.
  • Discuss important things first and stick to the point
    Make sure you tell the doctor about the important things first and try to get to the point. Do not feel you have to justify being there or leave your main concern to the end.
  • Not clear on treatment plan? Ask again
    Make sure you fully understand the next steps before you leave the room.  If you don’t, then don’t be afraid of asking your GP to go through the plan again.
  • Ask who to contact if you have any more questionsYou may think of questions that you would like to ask after your appointment. Find out who you can contact to ask questions, as well as any support groups that can provide reliable information.
  • If you need support, take a relative, carer or friend
    If you feel your situation needs it, take a relative or friend for support. They can help you understand or explain.
  • Unhappy? Ask to see another GP
    If you’re not happy, you can ask to see another GP in the practice. You can also change GP practices, but you should as a first step always discuss your concerns with a practice staff member first.
  • Could the practice nurse deal with your problem?
    In many cases, a practice nurse could deal with your concern, so consider this as an alternative to making an appointment with a GP. The surgery may also run special clinics such as asthma and diabetes, so make sure you find out.

If you would like to know more about the questions you can ask your doctor to get the most out of your consultation, take a look at the comprehensive list developed by NHS Choices.

These tips are based on guidance from Healthwatch Trafford, Healthwatch Central West London, Which? and NHS Choices.

GP writing a prescription

White Medical Group: proposal to close Stamfordham Surgery

If you are a patient of White Medical Group in Stamfordham please remember to respond by 14 November 2017

The Partners of White Medical Group are intending to submit a formal application to Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group/NHS England to close the branch surgery in Stamfordham. A letter has been sent to all households in the vicinity of Stamfordham surgery informing them of the proposal. All services delivered from this surgery would be relocated to Ponteland Primary Care Centre, plus the branch surgery in Wylam will continue to provide the services currently on offer.

The group says it has considered a number of options in order to provide patients with a modern primary care service, but sees closure of the Stamfordham surgery site as the only viable option to maintain the current partnership and provide safe and effective modern day general practice to patients.

The full letter can be found at White Medical Group’s website. Feedback on the proposal can be sent to: norccg.wmg@nhs.net or by writing to the practice manager. All responses should be given by 14 November.


Alcohol Awareness Week

Alcohol Awareness Week 2017

This year’s Alcohol Awareness Week begins Monday 13th November. The focus is on families and alcohol, and the campaign’s organiser, Alcohol Concern, will be taking the opportunity to start a conversation around harmful drinking to help break the cycle of silence and stigma that is all too often experienced by families. The campaign will be sharing the stories of people affected by harmful drinking, as well as case studies of alcohol services doing great work around the country.

If you are a family member who has been affected by a relative’s drinking and would like to share your story, please get in touch at: contact@alcoholconcern.org.uk


Useful Information

Families affected by harmful drinking

I think my parents drink too much

How much should I be drinking?