Flu jabs for health and care workers

Health and care professionals are being encouraged to get their annual flu jab.

If you work in health or care this is the most effective way to protect yourself, your family and those you care for.

This is anything but a typical year and we all want to protect ourselves and those close to us. Due to the potential impact of influenza and Covid-19 it’s now more important than ever to protect ourselves from getting the flu.

The flu virus spreads from person-to-person, even amongst those not showing any symptoms. Frontline workers are at an increased risk of contracting flu and it’s very easy to pass the virus on without knowing. Even if you’re healthy, you can still get flu and spread it to the people you care for, your colleagues and to your family.

Getting your flu jab is simple, easy and free. All you need to do is ask your employer.

The injected flu vaccine given to adults contains inactivated flu viruses so it cannot give you flu. The most common side effect can be a slight temperature or your arm may feel a bit sore where you had the injection. Other reactions are rare.

If you are not a health or care worker but would like to find out more about getting a flu jab visit the NHS website to check if you are eligible.

National Eye Health Week 2020

This week is National Eye Health Week (NEHW). It runs from 21 to 27 September, promoting the importance of good eye health and the need for regular eye tests for all.

David Cartwright, chair of Eye Health UK, the charity responsible for organising the National Eye Health Week (NEHW) campaign explains: “NEHW provides a unique opportunity for everyone involved in optics to join forces and inspire people to take positive steps to keep their eyes and vision healthy as well as preventing avoidable sight loss.

“Delays in people seeking treatment during lockdown and reduced capacity in optical practice mean it’s important that those with greatest need are prioritised. This year’s National Eye Health Week will seek to mobilise those that are experiencing problems with their vision or eye health and encourage them to seek help from their local eye care practitioner.”

Throughout the week watch out for advice about looking after your eyes and the 10 Best Eye Health Habits. These include: eating a healthy, balanced diet, not smoking, watching your weight and wearing sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV damage.

Each day of the week will feature a different theme. Themes for 2020 include: Ageing eyes, screen use and kids’ eye health.

Visit the Vision Matters website for top tips and resources to look after your eyes including a podcast, new online eye health calculator and vision simulator.

If you notice a change to your vision or have any concerns about your eye health contact your local optician.

Why not tell us about your local optician to help improve services. How was the service your received? Did you struggle to get seen during lockdown? Tell us your story here.

COVID-19: What people are telling us

Each month, thousands of people share their experiences about NHS and social care services with Healthwatches across the country. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this has ranged from the effect lockdown has had on carers, to the problems getting emergency dental treatment.

In Healthwatch England’s latest briefing they outline the issues over 19,700 people have raised, as well as taking an in-depth look at how technology has been used in response to the pandemic.

You can find a summary of the key points below or click the following link to read the full report:

Read the full report here

The impact of COVID-19

At the start of lockdown, people told us how the measures introduced to help control the spread of coronavirus were affecting their care.

Changes to routine and planned care – In many cases, people were unable to find the information they needed to understand what they should expect from services and were unclear about what the next steps for their treatment or care would be – leaving them feeling stressed and frustrated.

Shielding measures – Those who were shielding told us about problems in getting transport to their hospital care. For some people, the cost of attending one or more hospital appointments was too expensive to arrange private transport, especially if the hospital was far from home.

Access to prescription medicines – Initially people were struggling to get through to their GP or pharmacy by phone, and others experienced delays in getting their medication. This caused anxiety for people running out of supplies, particularly for those with long term conditions.

What can services learn?

  • People need clear, accurate and consistent information about their care and the services they use.
  • People’s experiences of hospital appointments do not start and end at the hospital doors – their journey begins at home, so transport arrangements must be considered.

Lockdown begins to ease

As lockdown restrictions began to reduce, we started to hear new concerns from people.

  • Worries about the future – People raised questions with us about how services can reopen safely, reported problems using services that are supposedly already open for business and expressed frustration at some NHS services being slow to reopen compared to other areas of the economy.
  • Testing for COVID-19 – While some people found visiting a testing centre easy, we also heard that the online booking process was difficult to use and there were concerns about the accessibility of testing centres.

What have people been telling us throughout?

  • Lack of accessible information – Throughout the pandemic, we have heard about the difficulties of finding up-to-date information in the languages or formats people need – especially when advice from the Government was frequently changing.
  • Emergency dental care – People did not know how to access emergency dental care – causing them extra stress while experiencing acute dental pain or other symptoms. Many others have felt they have no option but to go private if they want to receive treatment for what their dentist considered to be non-emergency treatment.
  • Access to B12 injections – Although some people received injections, either as normal or at a different GP practice, we also heard that in many areas there was an inconsistent approach to providing this treatment.
  • Care homes – People’s feedback highlighted that while family and friends were unable to visit their loved ones in care homes, timely and regular communication from care home staff really mattered.
  • The hidden effect on families and carers – The lack of respite has left many carers feeling stressed, isolated and forgotten about. We also heard about the difficulties some people faced helping the person that they care for to understand and remember the lockdown measures.
  • Praise for health and social care workers – Throughout the pandemic, we have heard about how much people appreciate the hard work of health and social care professionals during this time of unprecedented challenges.
  • The impact on people’s mental health – Since the start of lockdown, we have heard about the effects of the pandemic on people’s mental health and wellbeing. For some people, the changes to the services they would usually access have left them feeling abandoned – with infrequent telephone appointments not meeting their needs.

What can services learn?

  • Accessible information and meeting people’s communication needs must be considered from the start and should not be an afterthought. The information must also be shared through trusted sources, such as community centres and groups.
  • Families and carers have been providing even more care than usual during the pandemic – but this often goes unnoticed, and many need more support.
  • Good communications between care homes staff residents and their family and friends is key, especially while visiting restrictions are in place. Where appropriate, this should include involving residents’ families or next of kin in decision making about their care.
  • The mental health impacts of the pandemic are affecting both existing service users and non-service users. Mental health services will require investment to support people in both the short and long-term.

Digital healthcare

The pandemic has seen the digitisation of many health and social care services overnight. While digital appointments don’t work for everyone, and services should not be exclusively digital, it’s important healthcare services embrace technology for those who find it an efficient way to communicate. Our recent work in this area demonstrates how services are embracing this shift to digital healthcare:

The doctor will zoom you now

How the new NHS COVID-19 tracing app offers better data privacy

Read the full briefing to find out what we can learn from the rapid roll-out of virtual NHS consultations, and the importance of involving patients from the start when setting up new services.

 

If you would like to share your own experiences of health and social care services during the pandemic you can do so here:

Tell us your coronavirus story

How to contact your GP and get the help you need

As a result of Covid-19, the way patients access GP practices has had to change. Whilst this can be frustrating and unsettling at times, it is necessary to make sure that all staff and patients are kept safe. The following guidance from Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group will help you to contact your GP and get the help you need.

What to do if you need to contact your GP

If your needs are non-urgent, adult patients can contact their GP via the e-consult service on your practice’s website in the first instance. You can contact your GP practice and get a reply within two working days. You can also request medication, sick notes and bloods results through this service.

For health care needs regarding children, urgent problems or for those patients who are unable to access online services, you should telephone your practice and your call will be answered as soon as possible. The practice may ask for a brief summary of the problem to help direct you to the most appropriate member of the GP practice team.

Please note that your consultation may not need to be with a GP. It may be that the care/advice you need can be given by another member of the practice team.

Where possible and appropriate, consultations will be conducted either online or via telephone. If a face-to-face appointment is required and you need to visit the practice, please wear a face covering (unless exempt) when you arrive.

Face-to-face appointments

Your temperature may be taken on arrival and you will also need to sanitise your hands. Please be aware that the surgery doors may be locked and you will need to be granted access by a member of the practice team. There will be less people in the waiting room than usual and chairs are positioned apart from each other to ensure you can observe social distancing.

Please ensure you observe social distancing while in your GP surgery. There is clear signage to guide you. You are asked to wear a face covering if you need to attend the surgery in person.

If you have any coronavirus symptoms including a high temperature, new, continuous cough or a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste please DO NOT visit a GP surgery. You must stay at home along with anyone you live with and anyone in your support bubble. Only leave home to get a test. Self-isolate until you get your result.

Urgent medical needs

Please don’t delay in contacting your GP practice if you have an urgent medical need. The NHS is here for you and your family.
You can also get urgent medical advice online from 111.nhs.uk or by calling 111. For life-threatening emergencies please call 999 or go straight to A&E.

What practices are doing to ensure services can be resumed as soon as possible

Practices are working extremely hard to manage the backlog of work and patient appointments as a result of Covid-19. Please be assured that they will be doing all they can to arrange appointments and services for you as quickly as possible.

Please also be mindful that, at times, workforces may be affected by Covid-19, so teams may be smaller than usual. They are, however, all doing their very best to look after you. We ask you to be patient, polite and respectful. No type of abuse will be tolerated by any member of staff.

All the necessary steps are being taken to protect you and staff from coronavirus. Robust measures are in place to ensure that practices are safe.

When to self-isolate

If you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, you must self-isolate for at least 10 days from when your symptoms started. Please do not visit your GP surgery. You should arrange to have a test to see if you have COVID-19.

If you are not experiencing symptoms but have tested positive for COVID-19, you also must self-isolate for at least 10 days, starting from the day the test was taken.

If you develop symptoms during this isolation period, you must restart your 10-day isolation from the day you develop symptoms. If you live with others, all other household members must stay at home and not leave the house for 14 days. The 14-day period starts from the day when the first person in the household became ill or if they do not have symptoms, from the day their test was taken.

High risk groups

If you are in a high risk group, you can still go out provided you are well but you should:

  • Maintain two metres distance from people outside your support bubble
  • Avoid crowded spaces
  • Wear a face covering in shops and other enclosed spaces
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Wash your hands carefully and more frequently than normal
  • Use sanitiser outside your home (where available) especially as you enter a building and after you have had contact with surfaces.

 

Annual Report 2018-19

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 will have hard copies of the report available very soon so please get in touch if you would like one in the post. You can download and read the report here.

a woman answers questions from another woman with a clipboard outside a hospital

Annual Survey 2019 – Share your Experiences

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.

Complete the Annual Survey 2019

People talking at a Healthwatch event

Join us! Engagement and Research Officer Vacancy

Engagement and Research Officer

Healthwatch Northumberland

 

  • 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: derryn@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk.

 

Job Description and Person Specification

Healthwatch Northumberland Strategic Plan

Application Form

Annual Report Front Cover

Healthwatch England submits new report to Parliament

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Read the full What Matters Most Report 

Download an Easy Read What Matters Most Report

Stephen Blackman presenting at Healthwatch Northumberland AGM 2018

Healthwatch Northumberland AGM 2018

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.

 

Healthwatch Northumberland AGM 2018 Draft Minutes

Presentation: Derry Nugent, Project Coordinator, Healthwatch Northumberland

Presentation: Stephen Blackman, North of Tyne Local Pharmaceutical Committee

People joining hands with the word Volunteer

Volunteer Officer Opportunity

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.

You can download the Application Form and Job Description or email jeanp@adapt-tynedale.co.uk for a paper copy.

If you would like an informal discussion about the role and Healthwatch Northumberland, contact Derry Nugent, Project Coordinator at: derryn@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk or: 03332 408468.