NHS Long Term Plan – Our Report

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.


Overall Satisfaction

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.

Read the full report


Dementia Friends Cramlington

Dementia Friends are helping Cramlington become a dementia friendly town with their Dementia Friends monthly coffee mornings.

During this year’s Dementia Action Week the Cramlington dementia working group and Manor Walks Shopping Centre joined forces and created a Thought Wall. Having reviewed all the comments received the group came up with the idea of a meeting place for carers, support workers, dementia friends and people living with the condition.

Coffee mornings will take place on the first Thursday of every month at Nando’s in Cramlington. It’s a great opportunity to meet people, find support and advice on living with dementia and also to discuss ideas to support the town in becoming dementia friendly.

Dementia Friends are on hand to give information and help suggest other available support services  – these things can make a huge difference when you or someone you know has dementia. The coffee morning aims to provide a safe and supportive place for you to:

  • Discuss your own dementia diagnosis, or someone else’s, and think about what it means for the future.
  • Speak to  Dementia Friends and discuss how to help make Cramlington a dementia friendly town.
  • Meet and learn from other people in similar situations.
  • Keep active, make new friends and feel more confident.

You can join in at Nando’s, Cramlington from 10.00am to12.00pm on the first Thursday of the month and everyone is welcome.

Find out more about support with dementia at our Dementia Page

Older People

A Practical Guide to Healthy Ageing

NHS England, in partnership with Age UK, Public Health England, and the Chief Fire Officer’s Association and older people themselves, has published a Practical Guide to Healthy Ageing.

The guide helps people to stay physically and mentally well by providing hints and tips on how to keep fit and independent. It recognises, as we all should, that there is always something we can do to improve our health and wellbeing. For older people who may be starting to find things more difficult to do, it is particularly important to take active steps to slow down or reverse some of the health challenges we are all likely to face.

To help people understand their potential risk of living with frailty, the guide includes a simple, walking speed test. Taking more than five seconds to cover a distance of four metres is highly indicative of frailty, with the proviso that there is no obvious alternative reason for walking slowly such as a previous stroke or knee/hip arthritis. This is not meant to be a diagnosis, but it can provide a good indication that someone should consider making changes to their daily lives so that they can better manage their frailty or reduce the chance of it becoming more serious.

Download the Guide

New Ambulatory Care Centre Open

A new ambulatory care centre opened this month at Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital.  Ambulatory care is treating urgent conditions on a same day basis, without you being admitted to hospital.This is a consultant-led service provided alongside specialist nurse practitioners. Diagnostic scans may be available same day, and with medications dispensed straight from the ward, any potential delays for patients are minimised and treatments are received promptly.The ambulatory care centre is not a walk-in centre, instead patients are referred from the emergency department, their GP or other healthcare professional. The only exception to this is emergency gynaecology which patients can self-refer into. This centre will aim to treat patients on a ‘same day’ basis to prevent admission to hospital, allowing patients to receive the care they need as rapidly as possible before returning home.

If you’d like to know more about the ambulatory care centre please visit Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

Dementia report

Are people with dementia getting the right support?

To find out whether people are getting the right dementia support as their condition deteriorates, Healthwatch England reviewed:

  • What over 700 people said about their care
  • Data from 97 councils about whether people’s needs are being assessed and reviewed
Fewer than half of all people with dementia, who use social care, are getting the regular care reviews they are entitled to. Councils must ensure that these reviews are happening in a timely fashion, to meet the requirements of the Care Act 2014 and to make all care plans responsive to people’s changing needs.

Key Findings

  • People don’t always have a clear understanding of the support available to them and how to access care.
  • On average, people wait over two months between requesting support for dementia from the council, to that support being put in place. However by the time that people ask, they are at crisis point.
  • Once people have a care plan, only 45% are reviewed annually.
  • People with dementia are more likely to receive unplanned reviews triggered by an emergency or sudden event than general social care users.
  • 65% of people with dementia who had a review were referred for a full reassessment. However, half of these reassessments led to no change in the level of care and support.
  • One third of people with dementia, using long-term care services did not receive any review, whether planned or unplanned.


Oral Care in Care Homes

This week Care Quality Commission (CQC) published its latest report on oral care health in care homes.

Their findings reflect what people have been telling Healthwatch nationally, including the problems people face in accessing dentists.

Key findings from CQC

  • People who live in care homes do not always get the support they need to maintain good oral health.
  • 52% of care homes have no policy in place to support resident’s oral health. This could mean care home staff are not aware of the need to support people with daily mouth care, like brushing their teeth.
  • Many residents are not able to access oral health products like toothbrushes as care homes would not provide them, as they are seen as a cosmetic product, not a health care one.
  • One third of care homes said they had had difficulty accessing routine NHS dentistry services. Some managers reported that domiciliary dentists refused to visit care homes.

In response to the publication of the report, Healthwatch England Chair, Sir Robert Francis QC, said:

“Healthwatch has investigated the lack of oral healthcare in care homes for a number of years, and it is encouraging that this issue is now being addressed. Daily oral health support, which includes simple things like the daily brushing of teeth, is important to maintaining people’s overall health and it needs to be taken seriously.

“I am pleased that we have been able to work with the CQC to raise the profile of this issue and it is encouraging to see that practices are beginning to change. We want people to have the confidence to know that if they speak up to Healthwatch, action will be taken.

“What we learnt from this report is that we must improve oral healthcare training for care workers. It can make a big difference to the health and wellbeing of people living in care homes when care workers have a better understanding of what is good practice in oral healthcare and how they can support people to maintain good oral health.

“This report makes it clear that this issue is about more than just about access to dentists in care homes. The lack of availability of dentists is an growing issue that needs immediate attention. There is an increasing number of people who struggle to access high street dentists, and we urgently need to look at how we can successfully address this issue.”

Annual Report 2018-19

Our latest annual report was published this week. The report documents our activity over the past year; where we’ve been, who we’ve heard from and how we’ve made a difference to people who use health and social care services. We will be talking more about the report at our Conference on 16 October in Blyth, so please put that date in your diary – more details to follow soon.

We will have hard copies of the report available very soon so please get in touch if you would like one in the post. You can download and read the report here.

Integrated Care Systems Confirmed

This month the NHS confirmed that the North East and North Cumbria is set to become the country’s largest integrated care system.  In an integrated care system, NHS organisations, in partnership with local councils and others, take collective responsibility for managing resources, delivering NHS standards, and improving the health of the population they serve. Please see the full press release below.



One in three people in England, 21 million, are set to further benefit from improved health and care, as three new areas were today announced as ‘integrated care systems’ (ICS).

The North East and North Cumbria will become the country’s largest ICS, serving more than three million people alone.

South East London becomes the first ICS in the capital while Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West makes up the third new area where different health and care organisations work together to plan and join up services.

Each has shown that its partners all share a common vision to improve health and care, backed up by robust operational and financial plans, and proposals for collective leadership and accountability.

They follow in the footsteps of the 12 earliest integrated care systems announced in 2018, plus two devolved health systems in Greater Manchester and Surrey.

ICSs are already helping people to stay healthy and independent for longer, giving more care closer to where they live and work, and improving response times and performance in areas such as cancer and A&E.


Successes to date include:

  • 100,000 more general practice appointments available for patients in Gloucestershire backed up by extra home visits from paramedics and physiotherapists, and medication advice from clinical pharmacists based in GPs’ surgeries
  • Best practice care for people with atrial fibrillation is being expanded to every GP practice in West Yorkshire and Harrogate. This will prevent nearly 200 strokes to 2021, saving £2.5 million in costs that the NHS will reinvest elsewhere.
  • a single care record for each of Dorset’s 800,000 residents, allowing health and care professionals across the county to see the same information in real time. Joining up information in this way means patients no longer need to repeat their story to different teams and improves care because their full needs are better understood.

These changes have been made possible by different organisations – NHS hospitals, GPs, councils, care homes and others – joining forces to agree and plan for local people’s needs.

Speaking to health and local government leaders at the NHS Confederation’s conference NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens is expected to say “The Long-Term Plan showed how the NHS and its partners will improve care and help people live healthier day-to-day lives over the next decade.

“To meet these ambitions, every NHS organisation will need to intensify partnership working with others – including local councils and community organisations – for the good of those we serve.

“These areas are among those showing the real gains of collaboration: helping more people to stay well and avoid needless trips to hospital, while making it easier to get high-quality specialist care.

“We must keep a laser focus on making services as convenient as possible – everyone should feel like they are dealing with one system instead of having to repeat their story to a series of different organisations.”

 Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council  and Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board said “The move to integrated care across the country gives us the opportunity to really make a different for our residents and communities.  Locally, I’m convinced that working together in partnership with the NHS we will deliver huge benefits to the health and care system and will improve the health and wellbeing of Oxfordshire’s residents.”

 The systems will be built on a foundation of primary and community care, with primary care networks bringing together different professional teams – GPs, pharmacists, mental health and others – to invest a growing share of funding to do more in community settings.

They will also lead the way in developing a shared, in-depth understanding of residents’ full health needs, using ‘population health management’ technology to identify those at greatest risk of different ailments and supporting them as early as possible.


Amble Harbour

Health and Wellbeing Board Meeting

The Newcastle Chronicle this week reported on the discussions which took place at the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board meeting, which is attended by Healthwatch Northumberland Chair, David Thompson.

Siobhan Brown, Chief Operating Officer of NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which commissions the county’s healthcare services, set out how the CCG’s operational plan for this year will help to meet the goals of the Northumberland Joint Health and Wellbeing Strategy.

The strategy has four themes: Giving children and young people the best start in life; Empowering people and communities; Tackling some of the wider determinants of health; Adopting a whole system approach to health and care.

Read the full report

Alnwick Hearing Support Group

Alnwick Hearing Support Group meets informally each month. The group have a cup of tea and a chat, sharing their day to day experiences as well as their knowledge of hearing loss. There are also talks and discussions and the programme for the rest of the year can be seen below.

The meetings are held the last Wednesday of the month from 2.00pm to 4.00pm at St Paul’s Court, Prudhoe Street, Alnwick NE66 1XY. A £2.00 contribution per person per meeting is appreciated to help cover costs.


2019 Programme

Wednesday 31 July: “Marvellous Modern Molars: Dentistry in the 21st Century” by Andrew Buddle, BDS Dental Surgeon

Wednesday 28 August: No meeting – summer break

Wednesday 25 September: The Elderberries Programme at The Alnwick Garden, Tracy Jones

Wednesday 30 October: Northumberland Fire and Rescue service – no longer just the fire brigade! Russell Stalker

Wednesday 27 November: Hearing strategies – problems and solutions: what’s your experience?

Wednesday 25 December: No meeting – Happy Christmas!


For further information please contact Andy Griffin on 01665 581244 or at


Information event Hexham

Health Week Hexham Library

As part of libraries Health Information Week, we will be visiting Hexham libraries with our information stand on Wednesday 3 July. Come and tell us about your recent experiences of health and social care. This includes hospitals, dentists, GPs, mental health services, care at home, and we will make sure those providing the services know what you think. We will also have lots of information and giveaways for you.


Carers Northumberland logo

Carers Week Event

An event for carers across Northumberland from Carers Northumberland. The day will include:


Doing Digital: bring your own device and get support to demystify the basics of technology.

Chair yoga: low impact fitness and wellbeing techniques you can do in your own home.

Balloon modelling: try a fun new skill that will impress the children/grandchildren!

Health and wellbeing advice

Attendance Allowance advice

Relaxation Sessions

Therapies: two therapists will be on hand offering massages


Lunch and refreshments are included. Places are limited so please book ahead. Transport may be available from the north and west of the county. Call 01670 320025 for bookings and details.

Ageing Well Fair Longhoughton

Head to this over 50s free event for a cuppa and a chat (plus free cake!). You can find out more about the many organisations and groups in Northumberland that help support your health and wellbeing. Maybe you’re on the lookout for local activities and services? If you have some time on your hands you can find out about volunteering opportunities near you. So much information all in one place.

For more details visit:

Summer flowers

Ageing Well Summer Roadshow

This summer roadshow is a great way to find out more about staying active, staying involved and staying well. You can also find out about local activities and volunteering opportunities near you.

For more information contact Karen Cox on: 01670 858688 or email:

A Space at the Table

Screening of locally made film about dementia

Peter Woods of HexhamTV has made a film with a group of carers from Amble who are looking after their partners with dementia.

The film  is called ‘A Space at the Table’ because the space at the table that the person living with dementia would normally fill is gradually fading away with far reaching implications for each person living with dementia and also for their partners.

The film which lasts for an hour and 16 minutes is very personal and powerful and comes with a warning that it is not suitable to be shown to those living with dementia, those under 16 or to people who may be adversely affected by seeing its contents

With the kind support of Tynedale Dementia Action Group and The Forum Cinema, Hexham, Peter’s film is now being shown during Dementia Action Week 2019, on Wednesday 22 May, to highlight the honest and truthful experience of carers of partners living with dementia in Northumberland..

For more details and to book for this free screening click here.

For information and support regarding dementia please visit our dementia page

Northumberland Pride

We’re so pleased to be a part of the Northumberland Pride event again this year.

Northumberland Pride is a county wide organisation set up in 2017 to raise awareness of lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT+) culture and heritage. This is done this by promoting equality and diversity for the elimination of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The group also provides safe spaces which break down barriers that promote inclusion and support across Northumberland.

2018 saw the first Northumberland Pride in Alnwick. The event was attended by over 2,500 people and thecolourful march through the town centre of Alnwick attracted over 500 people. Visit our stand to tell us about your experiences of NHS care and social care – you could win our fantastic sequin dog!

Northumberland Pride website

Sequinned cuddly dog toy

Sequin Dog Northumberland Pride

Rape Crisis Tyneside and Northumberland logo

Sexual Violence & Older Women Project Launch


Research carried out by Dr Hannah Bows, Centre for Research into Violence & Abuse at Durham University, identified that:

  • Few older people contact specialist sexual services after experiencing rape or sexual assault.
  • Older women face specific barriers and challenges which make it difficult to access support, this includes a lack of awareness of services and confusion around who can help them.
  • Older women face myths and stereotypes about them and their experiences of sexual violence which impact on their recovery.

Rape Crisis Tyneside & Northumberland has been successful in securing funding to help tackle the barriers older women face and reach out to more survivors.

This event will celebrate the launch of the project, find out more about this subject and be a chance to meet the new Community Engagement Worker for Older Women, Margie Cooper.

The event will feature a presentation and discussion:

Sexual Violence & Older People

Led by: Dr Hannah Bows

Hannah is an Assistant Professor in Criminal Law, Director of Equality and Diversity within Durham Law School and is Deputy Director of the Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA).

Book your place here


Blyth Beach Huts

Recovery Walk

Northumberland Recovery Partnership is holding a recovery walk on Friday 17 May, from Blyth to Seaton Sluice.

9.00am is the welcome and filling out of health questionnaires at The Recovery Centre, 7 Sextant House, Blyth NE24 2BA. The walk will begin at 9.30 – walking to Seaton Sluice and back again – with a short break half way. A healthy lunch will then be provided back at The Recovery Centre, followed by meditation and the chance to have some basic health checks with a health trainer.

For more details please email:

People chatting at a community event

Community Information Morning – Hexham

The next Community Information Morning from Adapt (NE) will take place on Tuesday 14 May, between 10.30am and 12.30pm in the Resource Room (next to Cafe at Burn Lane). Come along and talk to local organisations with advice and support about health, wellbeing and more. For more information call: 01434 600599. Confirmed to attend this month are Age UK Northumberland, Alzheimers Society, Northumberland Community Development Company and Talking Matters, along with members of the HWN team.

Hexham Abbey Living well in tynedale

Living Well in Tynedale

This event is hosted by Tynedale Dementia Action Alliance and is designed to be a fun afternoon that can help optimise physical and mental health.

Everyone is welcome to come along and find out what support and activities are available in the area. Highlights will include:

  • How to stay active and fit
  • Volunteering opportunities
  • Start new hobbies and interests
  • Financial advice and resources
  • Live music

Refreshments will be available at the event. Healthwatch Northumberland will be there so make sure you come and say hello!