Our latest annual report was published this week. The report documents our activity over the past year; where we’ve been, who we’ve heard from and how we’ve made a difference to people who use health and social care services. We will be talking more about the report at our Conference on 16 October in Blyth, so please put that date in your diary – more details to follow soon.
We would really like to hear about your experiences of health and social care services in Northumberland over the last year, through our annual survey. You can share your thoughts and experiences as a patient or as a carer. Your feedback will help us set our work priorities for the coming year. Knowing what is important to you helps us to work more effectively on your behalf. We can also look at trends and themes year on year, seeing what has changed and what remains important to people.
You could also be in with a chance of winning one of three prizes when you take the time to tell us about your experiences.
We realise there are a lot of surveys out there from organisations asking for your feedback, but this really does help us to find out what matters to people.
Please help us ensure that the health and social care needs of the people of Northumberland are heard, understood and met by those responsible for commissioning and delivering services.
Thank you for your support.
Engagement and Research Officer
- Part time – 25 hours a week
- £23,685 pro rata – £16,003
- Permanent dependent on funding
- Closing date midnight Friday 15 March 2019
- Interviews will be held on 27 March 2019
- Based in Hexham with travel across Northumberland
Healthwatch Northumberland is the independent champion for health and social care across the county. Our aim is to give a voice to people who use those services, influence positive change to services and help meet the health and social care needs of the population
Health and social care are never far from the news and it’s an area that affects most of us. Joining Healthwatch Northumberland will give you the opportunity to work as part of a skilled and enthusiastic team making the voice of local people heard. It’s a busy time and you can help make a difference, especially if you have experience in gathering data and producing engaging information and reports.
If you would like an informal discussion about the role and Healthwatch Northumberland, contact Derry Nugent, Project Coordinator, on: 03332 408468 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In his first annual report to Parliament as Chair of Healthwatch, Sir Robert Francis looks beyond health and social care performance statistics to explore how people are experiencing care day-to-day across England.
Drawing on evidence from 406,567 people, over the last year Healthwatch has looked at what people are saying about GPs and community services, hospitals, social care services and mental health support, as well as issues that are common to all four areas of care (see below).
Over the course of the year, our network shared 2,053 reports with local services and decision makers about the improvements people would like to see.
The collective findings of these stories and reports show a real mix of views, with people continuing to receive outstanding care, much of which people say is down to the dedication shown by the extraordinary staff who keep things running.
However, it is also becoming clear that others struggle to access the support they need, with services not getting the basics of care right. Examples Healthwatch has worked on over the last year include care home residents not being able to see an NHS dentist and hospitals not providing the right information to help prevent patients having to return unnecessarily.
Issues like these require the NHS and social care system to be looked at as a whole rather than focusing on the headline targets for individual parts of the service.
Yet as it stands, services are not always able to spot the gaps between them and the impact this is having on the people they care for.
With the NHS Long Term Plan imminent, and the government’s plans for social care due in the New Year, listening effectively to people needs to become “part of the DNA” of health and care in England. From the beginning of the planning process to the provision of services to individual patients, insight from people need to be used to shape decisions and better track performance.
Healthwatch is doing its part. Since 2014 we have created the health and social care sector’s single biggest source of user insight, gathering more than 1.4 million experiences and views. We have also set a clear goal to step this up further, by reaching a million people a year by 2023.
Encouragingly, those working in health and social care are also using our insight more than ever before, drawing on our evidence and calling on our expertise to engage with communities up and down the country.
The government’s commitment to invest billions more in the NHS provides a rare opportunity to invest for the long-term in a building a culture where staff at all levels work in equal partnership with communities to shape the way services run.
Chair of Healthwatch England, Sir Robert Francis, says,
“The government’s investment of extra billions in our health service gives us a great opportunity to think about how that money should be spent, and how we can track the impact of any changes to ensure they deliver the help people want and need.
“To do this, we want to see people’s experiences of care become part of the very DNA of the decision-making processes throughout the NHS and social care sector.
“I have seen first-hand how a purely target driven culture within the NHS can actually be bad for people’s health, both patients and staff. To focus exclusively on performance measures can leave services with a false belief they are succeeding without any real idea whether people’s care and support needs are being met or where things might need to change.
“Listening to people and learning from their stories is the best way to get the balance right, and to ensure services have the evidence they need to shape care around the real-life needs of those they serve.
“The outstanding efforts of our local Healthwatch teams, supported by more than 5,000 volunteers, have created an evidence base of people’s experiences that is simply unparalleled. What’s more, we can see this insight being used to shape some of the biggest debates in health and care.
“For me, this is just the beginning. Over the next five years, we are looking to create a movement that puts people at the very heart of health and social care. To do this we need people to keep coming forward, keep sharing and help services hear what really matters to them.”
Four common themes
From the hundreds of thousands of stories gathered by Healthwatch in the last year, we have identified four themes which people commonly experience across all services.
- Better information to make the right choices
With the right information, the public is not only empowered to make better decisions about their health and care, but know where to go for help when they need it. However, this information isn’t always available, and when it is, it can be too technical, confusing or difficult to find.
- Easier access to support
Quicker and easier access to health and care services is essential. It can take a long time for people to get the support they need. Many experience delays at every step – from getting an initial appointment, in waiting rooms, and to see a specialist for further treatment. Repeated cancellations also indicate that the NHS doesn’t value people’s time. Technology used correctly offers the potential to alleviate these barriers and provides easier access to services, and to earlier diagnosis.
- Improved conversations
We know people want to be involved in decisions about their treatment and care. Good communication between professionals and the public helps people to be more informed, understand their choices, and manage their expectations. This is particularly important for people with disabilities or people who don’t speak English as a first language.
- Well-coordinated services
Navigating health and social care can be complicated. People want a seamless experience across different services. When services work well together, it not only makes things easier for people but also reduces the risk of serious issues being missed.
Our AGM this year saw around 100 people come together at Newbiggin Sports and Leisure Centre, to hear about the work of Healthwatch Northumberland over the last 12 months. Thank you to everyone who attended. Special thanks go to our guest speaker, Stephen Blackman of North of Tyne Local Pharmaceutical Committee, who gave an informative address on the role of community pharmacies in Northumberland and answered questions from our attendees. Big thanks also go to our information stand holders, who provided a wealth of information about services on offer from NHS, voluntary and community organisations in our region.
The minutes of the event and presentations from Healthwatch Northumberland and North of Tyne Local Pharmaceutical Committee can be downloaded below.
We are looking to recruit a Volunteer Officer to join the Healthwatch Northumberland team.
£11,301 pa (£23,230 full time)
18 hours per week
Permanent dependent on funding
Based in Hexham with travel across Northumberland
Closing date midnight Thursday 8 November 2018
Interview week 23-30 November 2018
Healthwatch Northumberland is the independent champion for health and social care across the county.
Health and social care are never far from the news and it’s an area that affects most of us. Joining Healthwatch Northumberland will give you the opportunity to work as part of a skilled and enthusiastic team making the voice of local people heard. It’s a busy time and you can help make a difference by developing opportunities for volunteers to be involved in our work.
If you would like an informal discussion about the role and Healthwatch Northumberland, contact Derry Nugent, Project Coordinator at: email@example.com or: 03332 408468.
Healthwatch Northumberland attended the drop-in session arranged by Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust (NHCT), Northumberland NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Northumberland County Council at The Swan Centre in Berwick on 27 September.
We had received feedback from local residents at a number of events earlier in 2018 and shared these with NHCT and the CCG. At this event Healthwatch Northumberland wanted to hear local residents’ views of the proposals and the ways in which they had been involved in developing them. Healthwatch Northumberland proactively approached was approached by members of the public at the event. The key themes reported were:
Development of New Hospital
The investment for the development of a new hospital was welcomed by everyone we spoke to. The variations between the proposals in 2014 and the current proposals, particularly but not exclusively, the number of beds were mentioned by most people. The ability to provide end of life care and post-operative recovery services were felt to be compromised by having 16 beds. People reported that what was happening now is that patients and carers are travelling to other hospitals at great cost and inconvenience.Questions were asked about how the new hospital would cope with the increased population from new housing in the area.
The current proposal was viewed negatively for the location. The Swan Centre site was felt to be too small to accommodate both an adequate hospital and leisure centre. One respondent described the hospital plans as “a glorified clinic”. There were concerns about access by public transport and parking and the loss of a children’s play area as a free public amenity.
There was no support voiced for an integrated health and leisure centre. There were varied interpretations of what ‘integrated’ meant – either one building with one door, two buildings on the same site with or without coordination of services and referrals. People were unable to say what benefits an integrated service would bring for them.
There was uncertainty that the space allocated for the Union Brae GP practice was adequate.
The list of services to be offered at the new hospital raised several concerns mostly with the assertion that they represent the services currently offered and therefore there will be no reduction in the level and range of services. One person described the list as “what is now is not what it was”.
There was questioning about why services were offered at Alnwick or other hospitals rather than Berwick. People were not clear if there were clinical or organisational reasons. There were reported experiences of this being the choice of specific doctors.
The service that was most often mentioned as being problematic was pre-assessments. There was general concern that while this is listed as a service currently offered monthly at Berwick, in reality people have to travel to Alnwick. As the appointments are short this was felt to be a huge impact for patients and carers in terms of time and cost.
The availability of outpatient appointments at Berwick was felt to be largely irrelevant as appointments at other hospitals were offered more quickly. This was seen as patients in Berwick having no real choice, inconvenient and costly. This was exacerbated by reported incidents of appointments at other hospitals being cancelled at short notice or when the patient had arrived or to find the appointment was not as anticipated – e.g. not a consultant appointment.
There was some acceptance that a full accident and emergency service would not be offered again. People reported difficulties with the Minor Injuries Unit being unable to deal with their case through not having the necessary equipment or clinical staff or having to call an ambulance which was then delayed. The reliability of the ambulance service in the Berwick area was mentioned as a factor in the confidence in a Minor Injuries service; one respondent said “if we don’t have an A&E we need a good ambulance service.” Another person suggested between midnight and 8am there is a need for something “to see you through until the ambulance arrives”.
Specific concerns were made about the removal of audiology and ophthalmic services. The removal of endoscopy equipment was especially keenly felt as the equipment had been purchased through acts of local philanthropy and fundraising.
Concerns were made about the timing and process of involving local people in the development of the proposals. The delay from 2014 and the changes between the two sets of proposals were noted and requests for the differences to be explained.
While the overall investment was welcomed, mention was made of what other options were considered and how the final services list had been determined. One person commented “What else could the money buy? We don’t know”.
Comments were made about the flow of information with many people saying they were not aware of the proposals until it was raised via Facebook. When asked what communication methods they would like to see used for such developments suggestions included ‘town hall’ style public meetings timed for evenings and weekends as well as during the day. Advertising via local networks of voluntary and community organisations was mentioned and one resident said ‘Post Offices still work’ meaning a direct mail shot.
Language was also mentioned with a preference not to use phrases such as ‘integrated service’ and ‘engagement’ without explanations.
Suggestions received about the 27 September meeting included a presentation in addition to the information boards, as due to the numbers attending it was difficult to read and digest the information. The wrap around section in the Berwick Advertiser was not viewed as helpful as it came out on the day of the session so did not help advertise the event or give people time to consider the information. Overall people found the purpose of the session unclear as it followed an Overview and Scrutiny Committee where it was felt a decision had been made.
The feedback about Berwick Hospital proposal gathered by Healthwatch Northumberland on 27 September supports the feedback gathered from earlier engagement about the choice of bringing together health and leisure services.
The additional information about the process of engagement throughout the process suggests that people who attended the 27 September meeting felt that they would have liked more information on some key questions at an earlier stage of the process and via more diverse communication methods.
We would welcome the opportunity to reflect and discuss these points with NHCT and the CCG and how it will help to shape future engagement exercises in this and other situations.
We also attended the Union Brae Surgery Flu Clinic on 29 September and will pass on feedback received there in due course.
“Feedback from the public – and from our elected public governors – has been unequivocal on the question of co-location: they don’t want it. As such, we will now move forward with a separate site.”
Much of the feedback received from the public related to the provision of services at the proposed new Infirmary – with particular concern that there wasn’t enough on offer.
Jim Mackey responded:
“Service provision at Berwick is something we take very seriously and wherever possible we are committed to bringing care as close to home as possible. Following feedback from the community it’s clear we need to reflect on this further. For instance, we don’t want people travelling for routine – relatively simple – procedures like pre-operative assessments. Equally, wherever possible, we need to make much more of an effort to offer more appointments at Berwick Infirmary to local residents. In both cases, we accept we could and should have done more and are committed to doing so in future.”
The report of the work undertaken by Healthwatch Northumberland around this can be read here.
We received lots of feedback about GP services in our annual survey this year. We would like to look a bit closer at this and would ask you to share your experiences, so that we can find out directly from patients what is happening in their GP surgeries and identify good practice. Please click here to leave your comments.
This report shares the insights from Healthwatch Northumberland’s on-going work to understand the different mental health services available for young people and the barriers they may face in using them.
Using the combined evidence from young people themselves and professionals in the statutory and voluntary sectors our aim is to highlight good practice and promote positive solutions to the commissioners and providers.