Escape Family Support online workshops

Due to the current lockdown, Escape Family Support has temporarily moved their support sessions online. The situation will be continually reviewed until it is safe to return to face-to-face support.

The sessions will run via Microsoft Teams every Friday from 10am to 12pm. Anyone who is affected by a loved one’s drug and/or alcohol addiction is welcome to join in. Call: 01670 544055 or email: sarah.tannock@escapefamilysupport.org.uk to find out more.

The following workshops are coming up:

22 January 2021 – All About Me Workshop 

Understand the importance of taking care of yourself, learn how to set future goals and learn to change negative thoughts into positive thoughts.

29 January 2021 – Drug and Alcohol Awareness

Gain an understanding of the different categories of drugs and understand the short and long-term effects of drug and alcohol misuse.

5 February 2021 – CRAFT Maintenance Group

CRAFT is an evidence-based programme for families affected by substance misuse. This group allows you to practice the skills you have learned during CRAFT.

12 February 2021 – Anger Awareness Workshop 

Gain an understanding of anger and learn strategies to use when dealing with anger.

Ask for ANI – domestic abuse support

The Government has launched a new code word scheme, where if you are experiencing domestic abuse and need immediate help, you can ask for ‘ANI’ in any participating pharmacy.

ANI stands for Action Needed Immediately but is pronounced ‘Annie’. If a pharmacy has the ‘Ask for ANI’ logo on display, it means they are ready to help you.

The pharmacy will offer you a private space, provide you with a phone and ask if you need support from the police or other domestic abuse support services.

If you need support for domestic abuse you can contact Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services (NDAS) on 01434 608 030 Monday to Friday.

fuel advice northumberland

Fuel Advice for Sensory Impaired

Two Sensory Impairment Fuel Advisors  – Julie Swan and Karen Renner – have recently been appointed on a project being delivered by Citizens Advice and Northumberland County Blind Association. Julie has worked in the charity sector for over 30 years, including with The Macular Society.  As a parent of a son with visual impairment she has some understanding of the challenges faced by visually impaired people. Karen has worked with a number of charities in Northumberland on several projects including cancer advocacy and mental health programmes. Karen has worked with a number of charities in Northumberland on several projects including cancer advocacy and mental health programmes. Julie and Karen welcome the opportunity to assist people in reducing their fuel costs and improving the efficiency of their usage.

What do they do?

The Fuel Advisors can work with you to give you more control over your energy bills.  This may involve assistance with switching your supplier, using technology to help you get the most from your fuel or showing you visual aids to assist you with your meter readings or general energy use.

They can also inform you about the availability of services such as the Warm Home Discount or Priority Services Register.

You may just want information about small things you can do or adjustments you can make to manage your energy bills more efficiently.

What financial advice is available?

As a result of coronavirus measures many of us are spending more time at home and especially with winter on its way.  As a consequence, households may be facing increased energy bills.

Northumberland County Blind Association is working with Citizens Advice to deliver support to people in relation to their energy use.

Citizens Advice can help you find out if you qualify for benefits or if you are eligible for a grant.

 

If you would like to know more about this service or how it may be able to help you please call: 01670 339749.

Cambois Surgery

Changes at Cambois Surgery

Clinical services at Cambois Surgery – part of The Gables Medical Group  – have had to reduce over the past few months due to Covid-19 and GP services have moved to the main Gables site at Bedlington Station. The Medical Group is considering the permanent closure of the branch and relocation of the Cambois dispensary to the Bedlington site.

All patients have been written to and have been asked to share their views, via:

  • A Teams session on Wednesday 20 January at 11:00am or Sunday 24 January at 11.00am. Please email a84013@nhs.net if you wish to attend
  • The comments boxes located in both surgeries
  • A letter to the surgery (Cambois Surgery, Blyth NE24 1QS)
  • A telephone call to the Practice Manager on 01670 829889

Answers to some possible questions can be seen below. If you have any more queries you can email them to a84013@nhs.net.

The Gables Medical Group is working closely with NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group, NHS England, local councillors and Healthwatch Northumberland during this period as it explores this potential move. Once the engagement with patients has ended, feedback will be reviewed and options going forward will be considered. The results of all this, and what happens next, will be shared in the spring.

Q&A for Patients

Why is the dispensary closing?

The dispensary is not closing, just relocating temporarily to the Bedlington site

Where will the dispensary be located?

Within the Gables main site at Bedlington, just through the main entrance there is a service hatch on the left hand side

What is the telephone number to order prescriptions?

Within opening hours, the number is remaining the same: 01670 823917. If dispensary is closed then ring 01670 829889

What if I can’t travel to Bedlington?

There will be a weekly delivery service if required.  This will only be for vulnerable patients who cannot access Bedlington and do not have anyone to collect on their behalf

Will I have to pay for delivery?

No, delivery will be free

What are the dispensary opening hours?

Monday to Friday, 8:30am – 12.00pm. However, collection pick up can be arranged within the Bedlington opening hours of Monday to Friday 8:30am – 6.00pm

Why is the service not staying in Cambois?

Unfortunately the building does not meet clinical requirements

Are alternative premises in Cambois being looked at?                                                                                     

Yes, we are working with Northumberland CCG to relocate the dispensary

What if I need an emergency supply of my medication?

Telephone 01670 823917 or 01670 829889 Monday to Friday 8:30am – 6.00pm

Will I still get the same service at Bedlington?

Yes, there are no changes to services provided.  The surgery is aware of infrequent public transport, so can provide appointments around these times. Please inform the receptionist of this

When is the dispensary going to move?

The relocation is planned to happen by 31 March 2021

How long before the dispensary re-opens in Cambois?

This will depend how quickly suitable premises can be found

How patients be kept informed?

By letter, posters, Teams meetings and social media

 

Care Homes – keeping in touch with loved ones

Care home lockdown: how are you keeping in touch with your loved one?

As we enter a further period where visiting relatives in care homes is restricted, we want to hear how this is affecting you and your loved ones. What information have you had about keeping in touch and maintaining communications about care and wellbeing?

We are particularly keen to hear if you managed to be tested and have an ‘in person’ visit during December.

We would like to know your experience of:

  • Using video calls (FaceTime, Zoom etc.) or telephone calls – does the home support these? How many times a week and how long? Does a member of staff help your loved one with the call?
  • Socially distanced visits – does the home support ‘window’ visits.  How many times a week and how for long?
  • How does the home keep you informed about how your loved one is getting on (apart from necessary issues about their care or health), for example, manager updates, photographs, videos
  • Does the home have a programme of group and one-to-one activities? Has your loved one taken part?
  • Has the home asked you what, within the current restrictions, would make this time easier?
  • What, within the current restrictions, would make it better for you and your love one?
  • When restrictions are eventually eased (not totally lifted) what would help you and your loved one?

You can tell us your experiences at one of the ways here on our contact page, text us on 07413 385275 to make an appointment to speak to one of our team, or come along to our public online forum around these issues on Wednesday 27 January, 1.00pm – 2.00pm.

If you would like to take part in the forum please contact Laura Haugh: laurah@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or call 03332 408468.

Covid19 vaccinations Northumberland

Covid-19 Vaccinations in Northumberland 

Covid-19 vaccinations in Northumberland – be prepared

The Department of Health and Social Care advises everyone who is offered the Covid-19 vaccination to take it, as the best way of avoiding potential serious illness from the virus and helping to ease the current situation in the UK.

As Covid-19 vaccinations in Northumberland are rolled out for high priority groups, here are some ways you can be prepared ahead of your turn.

 

Contact Details

Make sure you are registered with a GP practice and that they have an up-to-date contact number for you or someone who they can speak to on your behalf – the first people to be called for the vaccine will be contacted by telephone, sometimes at short notice – as new batches of the vaccine arrive in Northumberland.

You won’t be forgotten

Your GP knows which priority group you are in and will not forget about you. Please be patient and wait to be contacted about your vaccination rather than call your surgery.

Listen out for the phone

In the first wave people will probably be contacted by telephone or text, so listen out for a call, and remember that the GP surgery’s number may be withheld when they call you. Check your answerphone regularly for messages, if you have one. Keep an eye on the post too in case you receive a letter inviting you for a vaccination at the North East hub at The Centre for Life, Newcastle.

Travel arrangements

The first wave of vaccines will be given at one of ten vaccination centres across the county. Make plans now for how you will get to the centre when you are asked to attend, including plans for travel at different times of the day. Please note that the vaccination centre you are asked to attend may not be the one closest to your home.

Be on time

It’s really important that you arrive on time for your vaccination appointment to keep waiting times to a minimum. However, don’t arrive too early if you can help it as you won’t be seen earlier than your appointment time. If you have your NHS number, please bring it with you. This can be found on letters sent to you by your GP or by a hospital, or on your prescription.

Booster Vaccinations

The government has asked GP practices to concentrate on giving as many patients as possible the first Covid-19 vaccination, as this approach will prevent more deaths and hospitalisations than vaccinating fewer people with two doses. Everyone will get their second vaccination but it will just take a little bit longer.

Your GP is there for you

GP surgeries are still open for business alongside the vaccination programme. If you are worried about a symptom or have an urgent issue, please don’t put off contacting your surgery for help and advice.

As the situation changes we will update this information so you know how best to prepare for your vaccination. Please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest updates on Covid-19 vaccinations in Northumberland.

 

 

Vaccination Centres in Northumberland are currently in Berwick, Alnwick, Amble, Ashington, Blyth, Cramlington, Ponteland and Hexham.

 

Priorities groups:

  • Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
  • All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers
  • All those 75 years of age and over
  • All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (not including pregnant women and those under 16 years of age)

If you have any questions, or would like to share your experiences, please get in touch.

More details on the vaccination programme from the UK government

Covid-19 and NHS dental care

Healthwatch England is calling for action to address widespread issues with access to NHS dental care following an unprecedented surge in concerns. Healthwatch experienced a 452% increase in feedback on the issue in the second quarter of the year, with continuing accounts of people being left in pain, resorting to ‘DIY’ repair methods and in some cases even extracting their own teeth.

The review of 1,300 people’s experiences of accessing dental care found that:

  • More than 7 in 10 people (73%) found it difficult to access help and support when they needed it.
  • Access issues were caused by dentists not taking on NHS patients, as well as conflicting advice from different parts of the NHS about what help is available.
  • Many people were offered treatment if they went private, despite research indicating that 40% of people would struggle to afford private dental care.
  • The impact of not being able to access care led many people to experience pain, discomfort and further complications.

The increase in feedback comes after the British Dental Association reported that treatments delivered by NHS dental services in England are at a quarter of pre-COVID levels, with over 14.5 million fewer procedures taking place.

Laura Floyd, from West Berkshire, was part-way through significant dental treatment when it was cancelled due to the lockdown in March. The new mother explained: “As we went from April to May, I had an abscess develop on the tooth which was still awaiting treatment. I did receive care over the phone and a course of antibiotics which helped ease some of the pain and swelling but this never fully went away, I just lived with it as cautiously as I could. Sadly my eight-month-old wasn’t as cautious when reaching out and grabbing my face!”

Laura, who was entitled to free NHS dental care for 12 months after the birth of her child, did then receive some emergency treatment for a further painful cavity but is still waiting for her main treatment to be completed a year on from her initial diagnosis.

Sir Robert Francis QC, Chair of Healthwatch England, said: “The COVID-19 crisis has impacted on many areas of NHS support but, problems in dental care appear to be particularly acute.

“Even before the pandemic, people were telling us about problems in accessing NHS dental appointments but since the start of the summer these reports have hugely increased.

“If we don’t improve access to NHS dental care, not only do people risk facing far greater dental problems in the future but it also puts pressure on overstretched hospitals and GPs. Untreated dental problems can lead to pain, infection and the risk of long-term harm, which is comparable with other medical conditions.

“Health and care services are working hard to deal with the pandemic, but we believe the Government and the NHS should give more attention to resolving both long-standing and COVID-related issues in dentistry.”

While the report accepts that the overall treatment backlog caused by the pandemic will take time to clear due to limited industry capacity and COVID-related restrictions, it makes several recommendations including:

  • providing more accurate and up-to-date information for patients
  • providing clarity over NHS dentists’ obligations relating to patient registration
  • making more resources available to improve patient access to
    dental care and;
  • reviewing the overall cost to patients of NHS dental care, particularly with a 5% price increase set to take effect before Christmas.

Healthwatch is also calling for people on low incomes who are forced to travel long distances to access dental care to be reimbursed.

Read more on the Healthwatch England website

If you would like to tell us about your experience of accessing dental care during the pandemic you can tell us your story here.

NHS 111: How to book a timeslot at A&E

From 1 December you’ll be able to book a slot at your local A&E if you need to by calling NHS 111. Find out what is changing and what it means for you and your loved ones, in this article from Healthwatch England.

The NHS wants to make it easier and safer for patients to get the right treatment when they need it, without waiting a long time to be seen in A&E. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, crowded waiting rooms are also putting patients and hospital staff at risk of catching COVID-19.

How will the service work?

From 1 December 2020, the NHS is introducing a new system called NHS 111 First. If you have an urgent, but not life-threatening health problem you can now contact NHS 111 First to find out if you need to go to A&E. NHS 111 can book you an appointment at your local A&E or emergency department. This means you will have an allocated time to attend hospital and be treated, so you don’t have to wait a long time to be seen and can also help services avoid becoming overcrowded.

Your NHS 111 advisor or clinician could also make you a direct appointment with a GP, Pharmacist or Urgent Treatment Centre. They may also be able to give you the advice you need without using another service.

What will this mean for you?

If your condition is not life-threatening, NHS 111 may direct  you to a more appropriate service or one that can see you sooner. You may also be asked to wait at home until the emergency department is ready to see you, avoiding a long wait in A&E for you and helping to prevent overcrowding. If you need an urgent face-to-face assessment or treatment, NHS 111 should be able to arrange this immediately for you.

How do you use NHS 111 First?

You can contact NHS 111 either online or by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is free to use, including from a mobile phone.

Call 111

Have you used NHS 111 First?

We want to hear from anyone who has used NHS 111 to book an appointment at A&E or an alternative service, so we can understand how it is working for you and your loved ones. We then use your feedback to work with the NHS to improve how it runs services like NHS 111.

What should you do if you have a life-threatening emergency?

If you or a loved one has a life-threatening emergency, you should call 999 or go straight to your nearest emergency department. Examples of an emergency are:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Severe burns or scalds
  • Stroke

If you have been asked to wait at home until your appointment by NHS 111 and your condition changes, call 111 again. If you have been asked to wait at home by NHS 111 and you become seriously ill, call an ambulance.

Can I still walk into A&E?

If you do not want to use NHS 111 First, you can still walk into A&E for treatment. Patients who need emergency treatment will be seen first. If your health condition is not as urgent, you may need to wait elsewhere or be asked to return for a later appointment to help manage social distancing in the waiting room.

A medical professional at A&E will assess you and may direct you to a different service if appropriate. If you do not want to be seen by another service, you can still wait in A&E, but you might have to wait longer. No one who turns up to A&E in person should be turned away and told to call NHS 111 instead. If this has happened to you or someone you know, tell us in our short online survey.

What should you do if you have an ongoing medical problem that is looked after by the hospital, which you manage by going straight to A&E when you are ill?

It might be better for you to try and contact the hospital specialists that look after you before you go to A&E. Some patients with complicated medical problems need to be looked after in places other than A&E, particularly if you are vulnerable to infection. But, if you are extremely ill, go to your nearest emergency department or call an ambulance.

What should you do if you have difficulties communicating or hearing?

  • You can tell the call handler that you need an interpreter.
  • Call 18001 111 on a text phone or using the Next Generation Text (NGT) Lite app on your smartphone, tablet or computer.
  • Use the NHS 111 British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter service if you’re Deaf and want to use the phone service.

How else can NHS 111 help me?

NHS 111 helps people get the right physical and mental health advice and treatment when they urgently need it. A specialist health advisor will assess your health needs, give advice, refer you to the most appropriate care service or send an ambulance in case of an emergency.

Depending on where you live or the services available in your area, NHS 111 can also be used to book same-day appointments at local pharmacists, GPs and Urgent care Centres, so you can receive the right type of treatment. If they cannot make you an appointment, they will direct you to the best service to meet your health needs.

As well as A&E appointments, NHS111 can book same-day appointments at pharmacies,

Clinicians such as nurses, GPs and paramedics now play a large role within NHS 111 and may be able to give you the advice or treatment you need without accessing another service.

AGM draft minutes and Q&As

Answers to many of the questions raised before and during our AGM in October can be found below. We are still waiting to hear back from the NHS Trusts in response to some of the questions raised and will add these as soon as we can.

The draft minutes from the AGM can also be found below.

 

Questions for Healthwatch Northumberland

Q:  My husband has multiple health conditions. Since March, paramedics have been called four times (via NHS 111/999 or GP). We have been told consistently that they would not take him to hospital, e.g. for a high temperature. Are paramedics instructed to routinely give this message, consequently deterring people from seeking help? We know from past experience when his breathing is normal for him, but cause for concern, and when he is deteriorating and likely to require intervention.

This whole experience leaves us feeling it is wrong to call for help. This is exacerbated by other consultations (GP and hospital) which feel ineffectual for a person with multiple comorbidities.

A: North East Ambulance Service said:

The staff who answer 111/999 calls are not routinely instructed to inform patients that they would not take him to hospital. Each individual is assessed in their own right and the context of their presenting symptoms. If an individual is identified as needing hospital access then we would recommended that. Where an individual can safely be transferred to hospital without ambulance intervention that will be recommended. This saves ambulances for those people where there is an absolute need to transport the patient with supported care on route.

During the period since March 2020 we have had different thresholds for answering calls depending on how severe COVID-19 has been. Things may change in times of high demand and depending on the changing government guidance as we learn more about the virus.

On some occasions we have advised people not to access hospital care, the outbreak of COVID19 meant hospitals may not be the same safe environment for people with weak immune systems as they were previously. In these cases, where care could safely and effectively be given at home that would be recommended.

Q: Why have mammograms for women over 71 been stopped with no indication of when they will start again. Newcastle Hospitals advised there is only a four month backlog.  I have booked a private appointment. Also have GP surgeries been told to stop advertising the service.

A: This question has been submitted to Newcastle Hospital Trust and we will publish the answer as soon as we have it.

Q: I have seen that Being Woman charity gives out devices to people to access digital services. Is this service only for black, Asian and minority ethnic people or can anyone in Northumberland also access their service to get digital devices. One of my acquaintances in Amble has one and she was guided to connect up to GP services.

A: Thank you for your feedback and query around Being Woman. If you are looking for support around digital skills or would like to have a device to access digital resources we recommend you get in touch with them directly, either through their website: www.being-woman.org.uk contact them on 01670 857167.

Live questions:

Q: Where would I find more details about the Healthwatch Northumberland vacancy? Will there be a link available?

A: Derry answered. Yes we will make the link to our website available after the event or you can email info@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk to find out more.

Q: Do you have a view about the recent Look North feature about designated care home dementia spaces?

A: Derry answered. This is a policy decision and we don’t have a view in advance of the patient/carer experience but we are keen to find out more and hear from people about this if it is implemented.

Q: Are there any Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) plans to communicate the Primary Care Network plan to the wider community?

A: Derry answered. HWN is always keen on how issues, changes and developments are communicated to the wider service user group so we will put this to the CCG and publish the answer.

 

Questions for our guest speakers from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Alistair Blair and Judith Stonebridge, Public Health Consultant

Q: How accessible is digital in healthcare for the visually impaired, and have they been consulted and involved in the planning on digital healthcare? In addition, a lot of self-care promotion is on digital and this adds to health inequalities.

A: Judith answered. This is a really important question and definitely needs to be considered. The pandemic meant a rapid change overnight and there wasn’t much time for engagement, but we are doing that now and are keen to work with Northumberland County Blind Association. A significant amount of appointments are by telephone rather than computer so this may help and face-to-face appointments are still available if appropriate. We are keen to be as inclusive as possible, not just with appointments but with materials too.

Alistair added in regard to the self-care resources that digital resources are in addition to existing materials. Nothing has been taken away, talking books and Braille resources are still available.

Q: Are there any hospital sites or GP practices providing virtual group clinics in Northumberland? There are many patients who attended face to face group clinics who are now isolated and unsupported because of Covid.

A: Alistair answered. We need to separate group support, group education and group consultation. At present none are happening because it hasn’t been possible to get multiple people on to a secure platform. Zoom doesn’t meet the secure standards of the NHS. We’re looking into how group support and education could be delivered but it is harder to provide group consultations as there are issues with confidentiality. There is no way of knowing whether someone is recording the session. However, there are definitely opportunities here.

Q: What about increasing digital engagement and capacity building to facilitate digital engagement, especially those most at risk of poor health outcomes?

A: Judith answered. She said this is an issue which was discussed pre-Covid and inspired her to think about how people experiencing financial difficulties might not differentiate between letters in plain white envelopes from the NHS and elsewhere. There are plans to try to understand why people are not coming to appointments and what is preventing access. The pilots for the community hubs should help people develop digital skills. The Trust is also trying to make the language clearer on any letters sent out and will keep looking at data to help make improvements.

Q: Younger people might find digital engagement difficult if home is not a safe place or in cases of domestic abuse. How sensitive are services to these issues and how will it be addressed?

A: Alistair answered. There is a higher rate of mobile phone ownership and usage among young people. This is quite empowering as it is easier to make a quick call away from home rather than attend a face-to-face appointment which may be difficult if living with a controlling person. There are ways which people can signal over video if they are being threatened. The greater worry is that there are people who aren’t accessing health services at all.

Q: I recognise the value of digital consultation but it is still necessary to have face-to-face appointments. Can you reassure people digital appointments are not going to be the poor relation?

A: Alistair answered. If you need to examine someone you can only really do that by physical contact. People shouldn’t think of remote consultation as second class. It’s often just as good for information and sharing as face-to-face and the same amount of time for the clinician. It’s about choosing the right tool for the job.

Q: What about those practices who don’t have video links? Is connectivity in GP practices an issue?

A: Alistair answered. 90% of remote consultations are over the phone and all practices have phones. Every practice is also wired up for video consultations. Connectivity is more of a problem at the patients’ end. Sometimes image quality can be quite poor on video so texting a photo can be clearer.

Q: Is Northumbria Healthcare willing to look at the confidentiality agreements regarding virtual group clinics? There are many examples of virtual group clinics with confidentiality agreements templates in place.

A: The Trust is in discussions with Attend Anywhere (the system we use for virtual consultations) and they have confirmed they are planning to introduce a module for group consultations.  They are hoping to have something in development this year with a plan to introduce next year.  We are also looking into Microsoft Teams to see if this could be an option.  We would be interested to see an example of one of these confidentiality agreements and what platform is being used.

 

Healthwatch Northumberland AGM 21 October 2020 draft minutes

Care Home Visits in Northumberland

Our public forum on care home visits in November produced some really interesting and insightful discussion. We talked about how people are keeping in touch with loved ones in care homes during the pandemic, the effect on those in the homes, particularly those with dementia, and the effect on relatives, plus what would help, going forward and throughout the winter to make the situation easier.

Further to the issues raised at the forum, where people told us they were unclear on what care homes can or can’t do in terms of visits, we asked Liz Morgan, Director of Public Health in Northumberland for information. She shared the guidance on visiting that has been sent to every care home in the county, which can be found below.

We are hoping to hold another Zoom forum around these visits in the coming months, and in the meantime please keep sharing your experiences of care home visits.

Tell us your experiences of:

  • Using video calls (FaceTime, Zoom etc.) or telephone calls – does the home support these? How many times a week and how long? Does a member of staff help your loved one with the call?
  • Socially distanced visits – does the home support ‘window’ visits.  How many times a week and how for long?
  • How does the home keep you informed about how your loved one is getting on (apart from necessary issues about their care or health), for example, manager updates, photographs, videos
  • Does the home have a programme of group and one-to-one activities? Has your loved one taken part?
  • Has the home asked you what, within the current restrictions, would make this time easier?
  • What, within the current restrictions, would make it better for you and your love one?
  • When restrictions are eventually eased (not totally lifted) what would help you and your loved one?

Get in touch

Care Home Guidance on visits November 2020

Letter to Care Homes November 2020