Woman talking to pharmacist

Pharmacy Survey

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

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

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

Pharmacies Survey

group of stick people

Great North Care Record – update

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

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

What was the workshop about?

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

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

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


The Connected Health Cities team wanted to:

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


After the presentation, attendees were asked the following questions:

Would you allow different NHS organisations to access your information?

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

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


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

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


Next Steps

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




Lady with headscarf talking to a doctor

You asked us about Cold Caps

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

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

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

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

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

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


Breast Cancer Care

Macmillan Cancer Support


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

NHS Northumbria Roadshows

Northumbria urges people to ‘join our journey’

People across Northumberland are being invited to share their views on how the NHS can be ‘fit for the future’. During November, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust will be visiting communities to encourage residents to ‘join our journey’ and ‘talk about our ever-changing NHS’.

Basically they want your ideas.  Since 1948, the NHS has been constantly evolving to meet the country’s changing needs and expectations – from a growing older population to new treatments and technologies.

The trust’s roadshow will be out and about from 6 to 17 November and Healthwatch Northumberland will be joining them at most of the venues.

Claire Riley, Director of Communications and Corporate Affairs at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The NHS has always evolved and here at Northumbria we have a strong track record of being at the forefront – something we’re very proud of. In many ways we are already embracing many of the challenges faced by today’s NHS by harnessing new technologies and treatments and we’re leading the way nationally for integrating health and social care; with revolutionary outcomes for patients. However we fully appreciate there’s more we can do and that’s where we need your input. We’re particularly keen to hear your ideas about how we can do things differently and make the most of the resources we have.”

On the roadshows, people will be able to learn more about Northumbria Healthcare’s vision to ‘get fit for the future’ by helping residents to live well, providing care and support when people need it and using resources wisely.

The ‘join our journey’ roadshow dates and venues in Northumberland are as follows:



Tuesday 7 November

10am – noon, Hexham Abbey (market day)

2pm – 4pm, Hexham General Hospital


Wednesday 8 November

 9am – 4pm, Berwick Infirmary (new location to advertised)


Thursday 9 November

10am – noon, Belford, market square (Healthwatch Northumberland attending)

2pm – 4pm, Cheviot Centre car park, Wooler (Healthwatch Northumberland attending)


Friday 10 November

10am – noon, Bamburgh, car park opposite castle (Healthwatch Northumberland attending)

2pm – 4pm, Seahouses, Seafield car park (Healthwatch Northumberland attending)


Saturday 11 November

10am – noon, Alnwick market

2pm – 4pm, Rothbury, the Haugh



Monday 13 November

10am – noon, Ashington, Wansbeck square (Healthwatch Northumberland attending)

2pm – 4pm, Wansbeck General Hospital (Healthwatch Northumberland attending)


Tuesday 14 November

 10am – noon, Blyth market (Healthwatch Northumberland attending)

2pm – 4pm, Morpeth market place (Healthwatch Northumberland attending)


Wednesday 15 November

10am – noon, The Northumbria hospital, Cramlington (Healthwatch Northumberland attending)

2pm – 4pm, Manor Walks, Cramlington (Healthwatch Northumberland attending)


NEW: 10am – 4pm, Berwick Market


Thursday 16 November

10am – noon, Haltwhistle market place (Healthwatch Northumberland attending)

2pm – 4pm, Bellingham, Manchester Square (Healthwatch Northumberland attending)


Healthwatch Northumberland AGM 2017

Minutes of our AGM 2017

The draft minutes of our AGM held at Stannington Village Hall on 11 October 2017 can now be viewed/downloaded at the link below.

Minutes Healthwatch Northumberland AGM 2017

Great North Care Record

The Great North Care Record: Public Engagement Events

We would like to invite you to attend an engagement event in Northumberland, where you can share your views and shape the future development of the Great North Care Record (GNCR) project. We are working with Connected Health Cities, Teesside University and other local Healthwatch in the North East to talk to people about sharing data between health services. Events are to be held at:

Berwick Community Trust, Tuesday 7 November 12.15pm – 2.45pm

Ashington Round House, Thursday 16 November 12.00pm – 2.30pm

At present, when you visit your GP any information about you is stored on the GP practice system and is not typically shared with other health or care organisations such as hospitals or the ambulance service.  If you are unwell there could be delays in vital information being received by other organisations and health professionals. The GNCR project is being development across the North East of England and will allow your patient data to be viewed more quickly and easily by those involved in your care, with your permission.

We would like to hear your views on how the GNCR should develop and particularly about deciding your personal preferences to control which information you share and who can access your data.


Key points about the GNCR:

  • Healthcare staff involved in your care will have the right information at the right time
  • You will have better conversations with your health and social care provider as they will have access to relevant information prior to your appointment
  • Sharing information between healthcare professionals will save time and minimize the number of occasions that you will have to repeat your information
  • The GNCR will provide joined up care across the region
  • In the event of an emergency, medical staff will be able to access your details instantly which will result in safer care and improved healthcare
  • The GNCR can support academic and clinical research into new treatments at a faster rate if data is more readily available to the regions universities
  • You will be in control of how your data is used in your healthcare


The GNCR has three principal aims, to:

  • Deliver an individual’s important healthcare information, at the point of care, from whichever relevant organisations are involved in their care, irrespective of organisational boundaries.
  • Provide better information for clinical audit, service redesign and commissioners of care, so that health care systems can be transformed and improved, and run more effectively.
  • Provide data for health and care research in a research environment trusted by the citizens of the North East and Cumbria


If you would like to attend one of the events please email info@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk or call us on: 03332 408468.

Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Healthwatch Northumberland AGM

Thanks to everyone who attended our AGM 2017

The fourth Healthwatch Northumberland AGM which took place on Wednesday 11 October at Stannington Village Hall was attended by over 70 people. The event saw partners and local organisations come together with supporters and other members of the public to review the year of work 2016/17. Former Chair of the Board, Cynthia Atkin, was thanked by current Chair, David Thompson, for her work over the year and since the inception of Healthwatch Northumberland, and was presented with a bouquet of flowers.

Derry Nugent, Project Coordinator, gave a presentation reviewing the last 12 months, and outlining the strategic priorities for Healthwatch for the coming year and beyond.

Special guest speakers were Graham Tebbutt and Barry Dews from North East Ambulance Service, who presented on the new ambulance response times which take effect this month, and how these will affect the people of Northumberland. Many questions were raised by the audience on this interesting and important topic; more information on the standards can be found here.

A marketplace of information stands from local organisations provided support and advice for guests of the meeting; they were: Carers Northumberland, Age UK Northumberland, Northumberland County Blind Association, PALS, Northumberland CVA, Independent Advocacy and Complaints Services, Ageing Well Allies and Northumberland Cancer Support Group.

David Thompson, Chair, says; ” All in all, this was a well attended and illuminating AGM with thanks due to the many stall holders who were able to display and talk about the varied services which they offer to the wider community.  Importantly, the event also presented an opportunity for members of the public to raise issues of general concern to Healthwatch Northumberland staff and board members. This is what we are all about – listening to what people have to say about their health and care services and then responding in the most appropriate way to councillors, commissioners and providers. And that is what we shall continue to do during the remainder of this year, and beyond.”

Our new satisfaction survey was launched at the event and those who completed it were entered into a free prize draw to win a fruit basket, supplied by Fresh n Thyme Mobile Fruits and Vegetables. The basket was won by Liz Johnston of Northumberland Cancer Support Group.

The Healthwatch Northumberland AGM was filmed by Hexham TV and can be viewed on its Facebook page. Minutes of the meeting will be available here on the website shortly. Thanks go to everyone who came along and helped make the day a success.

Rothbury Village

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

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.

Healthwatch Northumberland AGM

Healthwatch Northumberland AGM 2017: You’re Invited

Healthwatch Northumberland AGM 2017 will take place on Wednesday 11 October at Stannington Village Hall in Stannington, Morpeth, 10.30am – 1.00pm, where our guest speaker will be a senior member of staff from the North East Ambulance Service (NEAS). The presentation will include information on the new ambulance response standards; what it means for you and for the residents of Northumberland as a whole. Plus there will be a chance to ask questions afterwards. If you have a question for NEAS please email it through to us at: info@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk.

This will also be an opportunity to hear about our strategic plan for the year, what we have acheived in the past year and to give your feedback on the work we are doing to help put people at the heart of care in Northumberland.

A complimentary lunch and refreshments will be provided for all attendees of the meeting and there will be a small marketplace of local organisations and support groups, giving information and advice on the services they provide. Confirmed are: Carers Northumberland, Northumberland County Blind Association, Northumberland CVA, ICAN Advocacy Service, Northumberland Cancer Support Group, Ageing Well Network and PALS.

If you would like to attend the Healthwatch Northumberland AGM please let us know in advance by emailing: info@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk or calling us on: 03332 408468 before 4 October 2017. Please include any access, transport and dietary requirements you may have.

CQC consultation phase 2 response

Our response to the CQC Consultation Phase 2

Healthwatch Northumberland response to CQC Consultation Phase 2

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is currently at stage 2 of a consultation process on its plans for regulation health and social care and the ways in which it will make its processes more responsive and more transparent.  Healthwatch Northumberland did not respond to the first stage of the consultation but has provided a full to stage 2.

Our response is balanced as it is supportive and challenging in reasonably equal measures. We support all the areas where there is increased transparency and more focused and proportionate regulation as it is this type of regime that reduces the regulatory burden on providers without losing protection or creating detriment for end users.  The response, however, also makes a series of challenges where we feel that the plans being consulted on do not go far enough to protect the interests of service users, their families and carers or where we believe that the CQC is not demonstrating a recognition of the needs of that group.  The golden thread that runs through the response is that the CQC does everything possible to enable service users, their families and carers to make informed choices where choice is available and to better understand the services they receive where there is no choice.  Underpinning this is the need for significantly increased engagement with end users and their representatives and clearer demonstration by the CQC that not only does it recognise but that is acts on the needs of this most important of stakeholder groups.

Read the full response we gave to the consultation.