Thanks to everyone who told us their views on the local implementation of the NHS Long Term Plan.
NHS England and NHS Improvement asked Healthwatch to work with communities across the country to find out how the NHS Long Term Plan should be implemented at a local level. More than 30,000 people from across England shared their views about how the NHS can better support them in keeping well and how it can improve care for specific conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and autism.
Staff and volunteers from all 151 local Healthwatch across England also held more than 500 focus groups, bringing together people from all sections of the community to share how they would improve local NHS services.
In Northumberland, the specific health conditions which people told us about were cancer, autism, heart and lung diseases, mental health and long term conditions. People with cancer and autism reported the most positive experiences and those experiencing dementia and mental health services, the most negative. Of this group of respondents 62% felt the support they received when they first tried to access help did not meet their needs, 23% felt it did meet their needs and 15% thought it met their needs ‘somewhat’. 17% described the waiting time to receive an initial diagnosis as ‘fast’ with 63% rating it as ‘slow’ or ‘very slow’. Those with mental health conditions were the most dissatisfied with the speed of being referred to a specialist, cancer was the only condition where the referral rate was said to be ‘fast’. People with specific conditions show a preference for diagnostic services to be within an hour’s travel time. This is especially marked for those with mental health problems.
Travelling for Diagnosis
71% of respondents in this category used a car as their way of travelling. Living in a large rural county an hour’s travel time is important as it has different implications for those who can drive to appointments and those who rely on public transport or being driven by friends and family. Those with dementia reported using a taxi and carers pointed out the difficulty of driving with a person with dementia. The difficulty of accessing alternative or planned transport – either NHS or charitable – was noted, as dementia is not routinely an automatic qualifying condition. People with specific conditions showed a higher preference for services up to one hour travelling time away, but were prepared to travel further.
The feedback we received in Northumberland via surveys and the focus groups we held fed into the combined Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and Durham report.