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

Rothbury Village

Our response to the decision to close inpatient beds at Rothbury Hospital

Update November 2018: The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) has responded to the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group regarding the engagement and consultation process undertaken around the decision to close the inpatient ward at Rothbury Community Hospital and reshape the existing services around a health and wellbeing centre. The IRP concludes that “further action locally is required to agree and implement the proposed health and wellbeing centre at Rothbury Community Hospital”. It is likely that Healthwatch Northumberland will be involved in any further engagement. The full letter from the IRP can be read here.

 

A great deal of concern has been expressed by people within Northumberland about the decision taken on 27 September 2017 by the Joint Locality Executive Board to close the 12 in-patient beds at Rothbury Community Hospital.

Having considered the information circulated prior to the Joint Locality Executive Board and representatives having attended the meeting, board members of Healthwatch Northumberland saw justification in responding to the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in a letter forwarded on 5 October 2017. This was followed one week late by a response from Janet Guy, Lay Chair of the CCG. Both letters can be found below for your information.

The County Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee discussed the in-patient bed closures on 17 October and decided to refer the matter to the Secretary of State for Health. His decision is awaited with interest. In the meantime, Healthwatch Northumberland will continue to act as an independent champion to ensure the interests of the wider community remain at the heart of all decisions made about health and social care throughout the county, by listening to the views of local people and engaging in meaningful dialogue with the CCG.

David Thompson, Healthwatch Northumberland Chair.

Letter to the CCG re. Rothbury Hospital

Response from the CCG re. Rothbury Hospital

 

Please note: Any response to news items by individuals or organisations are the views of those posting the response.  They do not reflect the view of, nor are they solicited by Healthwatch Northumberland unless this is explicitly stated in the news article.

Northumbria Hospital

Accident and Emergency at The Northumbria

This month we’re working with Healthwatch North Tyneside to find out more about why people go to the A & E department at The Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital. We will have an information stand in the waiting room at various times over the next few weeks and will be asking patients to answer a few questions about their visit.

Healthwatch staff and volunteers will be asking people about their experiences of the A & E department and why they are choosing to use this service. The information given to us will remain anonymous. We will share a summary of the responses we receive with the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and use the information to help understand what is working well and what can be done differently.

GNCR focus group with Healthwatch

Join the Great North Care Record Webinar

Last year we held 20 engagement events, along with other local Healthwatch across the North East and North Cumbria for Connected Health Cities (CHC) and Teesside University, to discuss the Great North Care Record. (more details about that work here). Researchers at Newcastle University have analysed the feedback from the focus groups and produced a report. The findings from this report are informing the future development of the Great North Care Record. Those who attended the events and anyone interested in the findings and what the Great North Care Record team is doing next, are invited to take part in an online discussion.

Taking place on Wednesday 7 November this one hour webinar will be a chance to hear what people think about sharing their health information, what is being done to put this into practice and how you can get involved.

 

Register Here

Great North Care Record Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Healthwatch staff talking to public

Berwick Listening Event – Our Response

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.

Location

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.

Integrated service

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.

Services

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.

Engagement

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.

Conclusion

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.

 

Man receiving forms from receptionist

GP Services

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.

young people in group

Insight Report – Young People’s Mental Health Services

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.

Read the full report here.

graphic representing germs

Flu Clinics

The engagement team are attending flu clinics at Union Brae Surgery in Berwick and Greystoke Surgery on Saturday 29 September, asking patients about their experiences of health and social care in general, and GP services in particular. We will also be present at the flu clinics at The Sele Practice in Hexham on the mornings of Tuesday 2 and 9 October. Come and talk to us on our stand in the surgeries – look out for the green polo tops!