Care home forum

Care home forum

We are holding another public online forum via Zoom for anyone who would like to share their recent experiences of visiting loved ones in care homes.

The forum will take place on Monday 7 February, from 10am to 11.30am.

At our previous forums we have heard how visiting restrictions in care homes have affected people living there and their relatives, people’s experiences of other ways of keeping in touch during Covid-19 and discussed things ‘we wish we had known’ when our loved ones moved into care homes to help us produce some future guidance to support others going through similar experiences.

Those who attended the previous forums said that it helped to give them a voice and it was helpful to meet with other people in a similar situation. It was agreed that the group would continue to meet once every three months to discuss any issues or concerns. The minutes from the last meeting can be found below.

Minutes from care home forum – 8 November 2021

We would like to hear from you about your recent experiences of visiting your loved ones in care homes in Northumberland, how you have kept in touch during any Covid-19 outbreaks and your experiences of visiting as an ‘essential care giver’.

We would also like to explore further ideas to shape our guidance to support others whose loved ones may be moving or have recently moved to a care home.

If you would like to register for our forum please contact Helen Brown by email: or call us on 03332 408468 (option 3). Once registered, we will send you the Zoom link before the event.

If you can’t make the forum but would like to tell us your story, or would rather speak to one of our team in confidence please get in touch.

Dentistry myth busting

Dentistry myth busting

Healthwatch teams across the North East have seen a significant increase in concerns around patients getting to see their local dentist. This is also a big problem across the rest of the country.

These concerns have been made worse by some common myths and misunderstandings around how dentist practices work. Here, we take a look at some of those myths.

1. ‘Registering’ at a practice

‘I saw my dentist a few years ago and now they say they can’t see me on the NHS. Aren’t I registered?’

Dental practices are set up within the NHS in a completely different way to GP practices so there is no formal patient registration within dentistry.

A patient is only ‘registered’ with a practice while undergoing treatment. So, you are free to approach any NHS dentist for treatment at any time.

2. They only want to work with private patients

‘My dentist said they could not see me on the NHS but offered me a private consultation.’

There is no formal patient registration within dentistry – NHS dental practices are commissioned to deliver a number of Units of Dental Activity (UDA) which they spread out over the year.

The number of UDAs used per day will depend on the treatment needs of the patients who contact the practice, for example, simple treatments like fillings and extractions equate to 3 UDAs, more complex treatment like crowns and bridges: 12 UDAs.

Whilst NHS provision must be available across the practice’s contracted opening hours, demand for NHS treatment may be so great that on any given day, depending on demand and the treatment needs of the patients who contact them, they could have used up all their NHS appointments when a patient rings.

They may, therefore, offer a private option to patients as an alternative, as they will have separate NHS and private appointment books, with separate clinical staff time allocated accordingly.

In line with national guidance all dental practices are required to prioritise patients based on clinical need and urgency into their available NHS appointments – this is called Triage. It is therefore important when you contact the practice that you fully explain the nature of your dental problem so that a clinical assessment can be undertaken to determine how quickly you need to be seen.

3. They are not doing routine work such as check-ups or scale and polish on the NHS

‘It’s impossible to get a routine check-up despite the fact I’ve not had one for over a year.’

All practices are currently working to national standard operating procedures which means that they have to prioritise patients based on clinical need and urgency. Therefore, their ability to take on patients for routine treatment such as check-ups is likely to be limited with the reduced capacity they are able to deliver, because of infection prevention control guidance.

However, if you have healthy teeth and gums, a routine check-up may not be needed for up to two years between appointments.

4. They are not doing emergency appointments.

‘I broke my tooth, but my dentist wouldn’t take me as an emergency appointment to fix it.’

Lost fillings, crowns or bridges, broken teeth or braces are not usually deemed to be clinically urgent, which means you may need to wait a little longer for an appointment.

Access to NHS urgent dental appointments is based on an individual clinical assessment of need. It is therefore important that you fully explain the nature of your dental problem to the practice or NHS 111 when you call, so they can correctly triage you.


Download the Dentistry Myth Busters PDF

If you have any further concerns about a dental service in your area, please visit the dental section of the NHS website where you can find further advice and an official complaints procedure.

Covid restrictions after 19 July

NHS health teams across the region are set to continue with the current pandemic safety measures for the foreseeable future to help protect everyone from infections such as Covid-19 and flu.

The safety measures introduced nationally during the pandemic have helped not only protect staff, patients and visitors over the past year, but enabled the NHS to continue providing many of the non-urgent services that would otherwise have been postponed.

Healthcare settings across Northumberland are asking for patients and visitors to continue wearing a face covering after 19 July. This includes GP practices, hospitals, dental practices, optometrists and pharmacies.

Staff, patients and visitors will also be expected to continue to follow social distancing rules and wash their hands regularly when visiting any health or social care setting.
These measures can help you protect yourself and other people and prevent the spread of infection. This will help keep services open and limit any disruption.
While the government roadmap plans to remove measures like this from everyday life from 19 July it’s vital that the public can be confident about accessing or visiting local healthcare services safely.
Hospital discharge during COVID-19

Hospital discharge during COVID-19

A new report from Healthwatch England and the British Red Cross looks at how well the new hospital discharge policy is working for patients, carers and healthcare professionals.

In March 2020, the Government introduced a new hospital discharge policy to help the NHS free up beds by getting people out of hospital quickly. This meant anyone who may need out-of-hospital support to help them recover would now have their needs assessed after being discharged, rather than in hospital.

The report shows significant numbers of people are not receiving follow-up support after being discharged from hospital under new policy, leading to unmet needs. Read a summary of the report below.

What did people tell us?

Overall patients and families were very positive about healthcare staff, praising their efforts during such a difficult time.

However, while the speed at which people were discharged from hospital was important, it often led to a lack of support for some patients leaving hospital.

Key findings

  • 82% of respondents did not receive a follow-up visit and assessment at home and almost one in five of these reported an unmet care need.
  • Some people felt their discharge was rushed, with around one in five (19%) feeling unprepared to leave hospital.
  • Over a third (35%) of people were not given a contact who they could get in touch with for further advice after discharge, despite this being part of the guidance.
  • Overall patients and families were very positive about healthcare staff, praising their efforts during such a difficult time.
  • Around a third (30%) of people faced an issue with delayed COVID-19 test results, potentially putting family and carers at risk, or in a care home, other residents and staff.

What are we calling for?

To improve hospital discharge for patients, their carers and healthcare professionals, ahead of winter and a second wave of COVID-19 admissions, we’re calling on the health and care sector to:

  • Roll out post-discharge check-ins by phone or in person
  • Develop a discharge checklist, including questions about transport and equipment needs
  • Improve communication by assigning a single point of contact for patients and carers
  • Link patients to voluntary sector partners or community pharmacists to deliver medicine and avoid delays.
  • Boost community care capacity and recognise the value of voluntary care sector in hospital discharge.

Read 590 people’s stories of leaving hospital during COVID-19