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NHS Clinical Research Project

Can you help the NHS to improve services and treatments for patients?

We are working with NHS England to undertake some research on what patients, current users, non-users and those with specific health issues including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, mental health and genetic factors, think about getting involved with clinical research.

This research will be really valuable in helping the NHS develop new medicines and learn more about better health and care for the future.

We want to know how patients and the public feel about clinical research, how they can get involved in research, what digital access they might need and if there are any barriers in place for involvement.

The survey will run up until Friday 12 February 2021.

Take the survey

Covid-19 and NHS dental care

Healthwatch England is calling for action to address widespread issues with access to NHS dental care following an unprecedented surge in concerns. Healthwatch experienced a 452% increase in feedback on the issue in the second quarter of the year, with continuing accounts of people being left in pain, resorting to ‘DIY’ repair methods and in some cases even extracting their own teeth.

The review of 1,300 people’s experiences of accessing dental care found that:

  • More than 7 in 10 people (73%) found it difficult to access help and support when they needed it.
  • Access issues were caused by dentists not taking on NHS patients, as well as conflicting advice from different parts of the NHS about what help is available.
  • Many people were offered treatment if they went private, despite research indicating that 40% of people would struggle to afford private dental care.
  • The impact of not being able to access care led many people to experience pain, discomfort and further complications.

The increase in feedback comes after the British Dental Association reported that treatments delivered by NHS dental services in England are at a quarter of pre-COVID levels, with over 14.5 million fewer procedures taking place.

Laura Floyd, from West Berkshire, was part-way through significant dental treatment when it was cancelled due to the lockdown in March. The new mother explained: “As we went from April to May, I had an abscess develop on the tooth which was still awaiting treatment. I did receive care over the phone and a course of antibiotics which helped ease some of the pain and swelling but this never fully went away, I just lived with it as cautiously as I could. Sadly my eight-month-old wasn’t as cautious when reaching out and grabbing my face!”

Laura, who was entitled to free NHS dental care for 12 months after the birth of her child, did then receive some emergency treatment for a further painful cavity but is still waiting for her main treatment to be completed a year on from her initial diagnosis.

Sir Robert Francis QC, Chair of Healthwatch England, said: “The COVID-19 crisis has impacted on many areas of NHS support but, problems in dental care appear to be particularly acute.

“Even before the pandemic, people were telling us about problems in accessing NHS dental appointments but since the start of the summer these reports have hugely increased.

“If we don’t improve access to NHS dental care, not only do people risk facing far greater dental problems in the future but it also puts pressure on overstretched hospitals and GPs. Untreated dental problems can lead to pain, infection and the risk of long-term harm, which is comparable with other medical conditions.

“Health and care services are working hard to deal with the pandemic, but we believe the Government and the NHS should give more attention to resolving both long-standing and COVID-related issues in dentistry.”

While the report accepts that the overall treatment backlog caused by the pandemic will take time to clear due to limited industry capacity and COVID-related restrictions, it makes several recommendations including:

  • providing more accurate and up-to-date information for patients
  • providing clarity over NHS dentists’ obligations relating to patient registration
  • making more resources available to improve patient access to
    dental care and;
  • reviewing the overall cost to patients of NHS dental care, particularly with a 5% price increase set to take effect before Christmas.

Healthwatch is also calling for people on low incomes who are forced to travel long distances to access dental care to be reimbursed.

Read more on the Healthwatch England website

If you would like to tell us about your experience of accessing dental care during the pandemic you can tell us your story here.

NHS 111: How to book a timeslot at A&E

From 1 December you’ll be able to book a slot at your local A&E if you need to by calling NHS 111. Find out what is changing and what it means for you and your loved ones, in this article from Healthwatch England.

The NHS wants to make it easier and safer for patients to get the right treatment when they need it, without waiting a long time to be seen in A&E. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, crowded waiting rooms are also putting patients and hospital staff at risk of catching COVID-19.

How will the service work?

From 1 December 2020, the NHS is introducing a new system called NHS 111 First. If you have an urgent, but not life-threatening health problem you can now contact NHS 111 First to find out if you need to go to A&E. NHS 111 can book you an appointment at your local A&E or emergency department. This means you will have an allocated time to attend hospital and be treated, so you don’t have to wait a long time to be seen and can also help services avoid becoming overcrowded.

Your NHS 111 advisor or clinician could also make you a direct appointment with a GP, Pharmacist or Urgent Treatment Centre. They may also be able to give you the advice you need without using another service.

What will this mean for you?

If your condition is not life-threatening, NHS 111 may direct  you to a more appropriate service or one that can see you sooner. You may also be asked to wait at home until the emergency department is ready to see you, avoiding a long wait in A&E for you and helping to prevent overcrowding. If you need an urgent face-to-face assessment or treatment, NHS 111 should be able to arrange this immediately for you.

How do you use NHS 111 First?

You can contact NHS 111 either online or by phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The service is free to use, including from a mobile phone.

Call 111

Have you used NHS 111 First?

We want to hear from anyone who has used NHS 111 to book an appointment at A&E or an alternative service, so we can understand how it is working for you and your loved ones. We then use your feedback to work with the NHS to improve how it runs services like NHS 111.

What should you do if you have a life-threatening emergency?

If you or a loved one has a life-threatening emergency, you should call 999 or go straight to your nearest emergency department. Examples of an emergency are:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
  • Chest pain
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Severe burns or scalds
  • Stroke

If you have been asked to wait at home until your appointment by NHS 111 and your condition changes, call 111 again. If you have been asked to wait at home by NHS 111 and you become seriously ill, call an ambulance.

Can I still walk into A&E?

If you do not want to use NHS 111 First, you can still walk into A&E for treatment. Patients who need emergency treatment will be seen first. If your health condition is not as urgent, you may need to wait elsewhere or be asked to return for a later appointment to help manage social distancing in the waiting room.

A medical professional at A&E will assess you and may direct you to a different service if appropriate. If you do not want to be seen by another service, you can still wait in A&E, but you might have to wait longer. No one who turns up to A&E in person should be turned away and told to call NHS 111 instead. If this has happened to you or someone you know, tell us in our short online survey.

What should you do if you have an ongoing medical problem that is looked after by the hospital, which you manage by going straight to A&E when you are ill?

It might be better for you to try and contact the hospital specialists that look after you before you go to A&E. Some patients with complicated medical problems need to be looked after in places other than A&E, particularly if you are vulnerable to infection. But, if you are extremely ill, go to your nearest emergency department or call an ambulance.

What should you do if you have difficulties communicating or hearing?

  • You can tell the call handler that you need an interpreter.
  • Call 18001 111 on a text phone or using the Next Generation Text (NGT) Lite app on your smartphone, tablet or computer.
  • Use the NHS 111 British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter service if you’re Deaf and want to use the phone service.

How else can NHS 111 help me?

NHS 111 helps people get the right physical and mental health advice and treatment when they urgently need it. A specialist health advisor will assess your health needs, give advice, refer you to the most appropriate care service or send an ambulance in case of an emergency.

Depending on where you live or the services available in your area, NHS 111 can also be used to book same-day appointments at local pharmacists, GPs and Urgent care Centres, so you can receive the right type of treatment. If they cannot make you an appointment, they will direct you to the best service to meet your health needs.

As well as A&E appointments, NHS111 can book same-day appointments at pharmacies,

Clinicians such as nurses, GPs and paramedics now play a large role within NHS 111 and may be able to give you the advice or treatment you need without accessing another service.

AGM draft minutes and Q&As

Answers to many of the questions raised before and during our AGM in October can be found below. We are still waiting to hear back from the NHS Trusts in response to some of the questions raised and will add these as soon as we can.

The draft minutes from the AGM can also be found below.

 

Questions for Healthwatch Northumberland

Q:  My husband has multiple health conditions. Since March, paramedics have been called four times (via NHS 111/999 or GP). We have been told consistently that they would not take him to hospital, e.g. for a high temperature. Are paramedics instructed to routinely give this message, consequently deterring people from seeking help? We know from past experience when his breathing is normal for him, but cause for concern, and when he is deteriorating and likely to require intervention.

This whole experience leaves us feeling it is wrong to call for help. This is exacerbated by other consultations (GP and hospital) which feel ineffectual for a person with multiple comorbidities.

A: North East Ambulance Service said:

The staff who answer 111/999 calls are not routinely instructed to inform patients that they would not take him to hospital. Each individual is assessed in their own right and the context of their presenting symptoms. If an individual is identified as needing hospital access then we would recommended that. Where an individual can safely be transferred to hospital without ambulance intervention that will be recommended. This saves ambulances for those people where there is an absolute need to transport the patient with supported care on route.

During the period since March 2020 we have had different thresholds for answering calls depending on how severe COVID-19 has been. Things may change in times of high demand and depending on the changing government guidance as we learn more about the virus.

On some occasions we have advised people not to access hospital care, the outbreak of COVID19 meant hospitals may not be the same safe environment for people with weak immune systems as they were previously. In these cases, where care could safely and effectively be given at home that would be recommended.

Q: Why have mammograms for women over 71 been stopped with no indication of when they will start again. Newcastle Hospitals advised there is only a four month backlog.  I have booked a private appointment. Also have GP surgeries been told to stop advertising the service.

A: This question has been submitted to Newcastle Hospital Trust and we will publish the answer as soon as we have it.

Q: I have seen that Being Woman charity gives out devices to people to access digital services. Is this service only for black, Asian and minority ethnic people or can anyone in Northumberland also access their service to get digital devices. One of my acquaintances in Amble has one and she was guided to connect up to GP services.

A: Thank you for your feedback and query around Being Woman. If you are looking for support around digital skills or would like to have a device to access digital resources we recommend you get in touch with them directly, either through their website: www.being-woman.org.uk contact them on 01670 857167.

Live questions:

Q: Where would I find more details about the Healthwatch Northumberland vacancy? Will there be a link available?

A: Derry answered. Yes we will make the link to our website available after the event or you can email info@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk to find out more.

Q: Do you have a view about the recent Look North feature about designated care home dementia spaces?

A: Derry answered. This is a policy decision and we don’t have a view in advance of the patient/carer experience but we are keen to find out more and hear from people about this if it is implemented.

Q: Are there any Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) plans to communicate the Primary Care Network plan to the wider community?

A: Derry answered. HWN is always keen on how issues, changes and developments are communicated to the wider service user group so we will put this to the CCG and publish the answer.

 

Questions for our guest speakers from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Dr Alistair Blair and Judith Stonebridge, Public Health Consultant

Q: How accessible is digital in healthcare for the visually impaired, and have they been consulted and involved in the planning on digital healthcare? In addition, a lot of self-care promotion is on digital and this adds to health inequalities.

A: Judith answered. This is a really important question and definitely needs to be considered. The pandemic meant a rapid change overnight and there wasn’t much time for engagement, but we are doing that now and are keen to work with Northumberland County Blind Association. A significant amount of appointments are by telephone rather than computer so this may help and face-to-face appointments are still available if appropriate. We are keen to be as inclusive as possible, not just with appointments but with materials too.

Alistair added in regard to the self-care resources that digital resources are in addition to existing materials. Nothing has been taken away, talking books and Braille resources are still available.

Q: Are there any hospital sites or GP practices providing virtual group clinics in Northumberland? There are many patients who attended face to face group clinics who are now isolated and unsupported because of Covid.

A: Alistair answered. We need to separate group support, group education and group consultation. At present none are happening because it hasn’t been possible to get multiple people on to a secure platform. Zoom doesn’t meet the secure standards of the NHS. We’re looking into how group support and education could be delivered but it is harder to provide group consultations as there are issues with confidentiality. There is no way of knowing whether someone is recording the session. However, there are definitely opportunities here.

Q: What about increasing digital engagement and capacity building to facilitate digital engagement, especially those most at risk of poor health outcomes?

A: Judith answered. She said this is an issue which was discussed pre-Covid and inspired her to think about how people experiencing financial difficulties might not differentiate between letters in plain white envelopes from the NHS and elsewhere. There are plans to try to understand why people are not coming to appointments and what is preventing access. The pilots for the community hubs should help people develop digital skills. The Trust is also trying to make the language clearer on any letters sent out and will keep looking at data to help make improvements.

Q: Younger people might find digital engagement difficult if home is not a safe place or in cases of domestic abuse. How sensitive are services to these issues and how will it be addressed?

A: Alistair answered. There is a higher rate of mobile phone ownership and usage among young people. This is quite empowering as it is easier to make a quick call away from home rather than attend a face-to-face appointment which may be difficult if living with a controlling person. There are ways which people can signal over video if they are being threatened. The greater worry is that there are people who aren’t accessing health services at all.

Q: I recognise the value of digital consultation but it is still necessary to have face-to-face appointments. Can you reassure people digital appointments are not going to be the poor relation?

A: Alistair answered. If you need to examine someone you can only really do that by physical contact. People shouldn’t think of remote consultation as second class. It’s often just as good for information and sharing as face-to-face and the same amount of time for the clinician. It’s about choosing the right tool for the job.

Q: What about those practices who don’t have video links? Is connectivity in GP practices an issue?

A: Alistair answered. 90% of remote consultations are over the phone and all practices have phones. Every practice is also wired up for video consultations. Connectivity is more of a problem at the patients’ end. Sometimes image quality can be quite poor on video so texting a photo can be clearer.

Q: Is Northumbria Healthcare willing to look at the confidentiality agreements regarding virtual group clinics? There are many examples of virtual group clinics with confidentiality agreements templates in place.

A: The Trust is in discussions with Attend Anywhere (the system we use for virtual consultations) and they have confirmed they are planning to introduce a module for group consultations.  They are hoping to have something in development this year with a plan to introduce next year.  We are also looking into Microsoft Teams to see if this could be an option.  We would be interested to see an example of one of these confidentiality agreements and what platform is being used.

 

Healthwatch Northumberland AGM 21 October 2020 draft minutes

David’s at the helm of new Berwick hospital

From Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust:

A project manager has been appointed to drive forward the building of the new £25million hospital in Berwick.

David Smailes will oversee all aspects of the development which is set to transform healthcare in the area and be erected on the site of the existing Berwick Infirmary. Northumberland-born and bred, David has more than 40 years’ experience in the civil engineering and construction industry and has led a number of large national projects.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s planning application is due to be decided by Northumberland County Council on Tuesday 1 December.

David, who was born in Alnwick and lives in Warkworth, said “I’m really excited to be part of the team building the new hospital in Berwick and the significance of this development for the town, the surrounding area, and the trust is clear from the short time I have been in post.

“My uncle Joseph was a barber in Berwick for many years so I feel I have a connection with the place and therefore it’s extra special to be involved in this project and spending time there once again.

“This hospital is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make a massive difference to the lives of people for generations to come and I am proud to be working with such a dedicated, experienced and knowledgeable team.”

David, 56, added “I fully appreciate the importance of working collaboratively with the local community on developments of this magnitude and I would like to reassure residents and all partners that we will keep everyone updated throughout this process.

“While it will be challenging to build a new hospital at the same time as keeping the existing one operational, every one of the team is committed to doing just that and ensuring we continue to keep our staff safe and deliver high quality care for our patients at all times.”

If given the go-ahead, the two-storey hospital will re-provide all the existing services and embrace the latest technology to improve care for patients. It will accommodate Well Close Medical Group which will pave the way for further integration between GPs and the hospital for the benefit of patients.

Executive Director Marion Dickson, who is leading the Berwick redevelopment project for the trust, said “We are delighted to have David at the helm as we reach the stage of having a dedicated project manager for our new hospital. He has vast experience in this field and, having links to the town, is aware of the background and the need to more forward as quickly as we can.

“We will continue to keep you updated and can assure you that, as soon as we are granted planning permission, we will advance to the next stage of the development by demolishing the parts of the infirmary which we have vacated, to make way for the new hospital.”

Patients with appointments at Berwick Infirmary are encouraged to attend as normal in the run-up to, and construction of, the new hospital, and during Covid-19.

Let’s Talk: Audiology Services Report

After receiving significant feedback from people in Northumberland about the end of the Hear to Help service provided by charity Action on Hearing Loss, we decided to investigate the potential impact on service users.

Hear to Help was a drop-in service delivered in community locations including libraries and GP surgeries. The drop-in service provided advice and information for people experiencing hearing loss, as well as performing general hearing aid/s maintenance, such as replacing tubes and batteries.The Hear to Help service stopped on 30 April 2019.

Feedback we received suggested that some people appreciated the service and did not want it to be withdrawn. We took a deeper look at the impact, if any, of the withdrawal of this service and to build a greater awareness and understanding of what people in Northumberland want and need in services to support with hearing loss.

It should be noted this work was done before the Covid-19 pandemic and the resultant change to services. However, the issues raised by respondents, particularly about communication, remain relevant now and in the future.

 

Aims

We wanted to find out:

  1. What do people in Northumberland think of audiology services?
  2. What audiology services are available for the people of Northumberland?
  3. What is good about audiology services in the county?
  4. What could be better about audiology services in the county?

 

Summary

Location of hearing loss services was a key area of discussion

  • More than 50% of people we asked said it was easy for them to travel to an audiology clinic
  • Some people were happy they did not need to travel to Newcastle
  • Some people said the clinic was in a bad location with accessibility issues, seasonal transport issues, and public transport combined with limited clinic opening hours
  • People who found it easy to access clinics used a range of different transport modes
  • We are unlikely to have heard from the most isolated, vulnerable people in the county People who live rurally, with mobility issues, or limited social networks, and lower incomes, are likely to find it hardest to access hearing care clinics
  • Some patients were supported by a carer or friend to attend a clinic or understand their care – a gap for patients in accessing or receiving hearing care independently
  • Few people told us they used patient/community transport services to access a clinic

Information about and awareness of services was another key area of discussion

  • We signposted people to: transport services, audiology clinics, and voluntary groups (like Carers Northumberland), showing a lack of awareness/information availability
  • Some people were aware of hearing aid/s battery locations, whilst others were not
  • One patient spoke about an information form given with their hearing aid/s used to support them to live with hearing aid/s. Contrastingly, 48% of people said they had not been offered training, advice, or support for living with hearing loss
  • Some people believed the onus was on the person experiencing hearing loss to ask rather than professionals to let them know what support was available
  • 10 of 11 people in our focus group did not know of the hearing aid/s postal service
  • Some people were not physically able to clean or retube their own hearing aid/s due to dexterity problems, vision impairment, or not feeling confident enough
  • 23% of people we asked agreed they had felt isolated as a result of their hearing loss

Drop in vs appointments

  • Most people preferred drop-ins to appointments, finding them easier or more convenient
  • In our focus group most patients preferred appointments to drop-ins
  • Many patients were satisfied with the current audiology appointment system
  • Interestingly patients gave similar reasons for their preference of either appointments or drop-ins – ease of managing transport arrangements as a priority
  • 42% of patients would like to be told it was their turn to be seen by someone calling out their name. Some patients liked the idea of having a board with their name on
  • 62% of patients we spoke to agreed the waiting time for their appointment was reasonable 71% of people agreed their appointment gave them ‘time to talk’
  • 52% of people said they had their hearing aid/s serviced at the right time for them

Regular hearing aid/s maintenance and NHS audiology services

  • People were positive about the quality of care provided in audiology clinics. People praised the staff and were satisfied they got what they needed from the service
  • It is advised that hearing aid/s tubing is replaced every three to six months. 42% of patients had their hearing aid/s maintained in the last six months, and 46% had not
  • Many people we spoke to were able to clean and change batteries in their hearing aid/s but could not change their tubes
  • Some patients said they had waited a while to receive their new hearing aids
  • People told us that not all hearing aid/s batteries/tubes were available everywhere
  • Some patients said they found face to face communication easiest. Many services now offer a phone appointment system, a barrier to people with hearing loss

Hear to Help service

  • Hear to Help was an important service for people experiencing hearing loss
  • People at the Bell View focus group said the service had helped to show them how to maintain their hearing aid/s, and given them tube cleaners

Read the Full Report

NHS 111 Northumberland

NHS 111 ‘Call-First’ FAQs

You may have heard or seen in the news that NHS England is currently trialling a new ‘call-first’ approach, which encourages people to contact NHS 111 before going to A&E. To support this, 111 call handlers should be able to book people directly into appointments with alternative services or give people a pre-booked time to attend A&E to avoid overcrowding in departments.

Healthwatch England has produced this FAQ guide jointly with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine which outlines how the new approach should be working and common questions people may have surrounding it.

Emergency Departments (A&Es) are there for all and everyone in their time of need. They are the frontline care service we turn to when we’re experiencing a critical, life threatening health problem or have had a serious accident.

We want all patients to receive the best possible care in a safe and timely way, but too often people are kept waiting in their A&E. Many patients who go to A&E could be treated more appropriately, and often more quickly by another service within the NHS.

Which is why the NHS is asking patients to call 111 first. By calling 111 first patients can potentially avoid waiting unnecessarily in a hospital waiting room and find the service that is right for their needs.

Calling 111 first may also help to reduce pressure on parts of the health service that are overstretched by redirecting patients to services that are ready and available for them, helping make the NHS better for all.

The coronavirus pandemic has also made clear that we need to change the way we all access urgent and emergency care, to help reduce the risk of infection.
Here we outline what those changes are and answer some of the frequently asked questions about what these changes mean for patients.

NHS 111 Call-first Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is happening?
To ensure that patients get the right care as quickly as possible, save people long waits in A&E, and ensure emergency departments don’t get too crowded, patients are being asked to call NHS 111 first before going to their A&E – except in absolute emergencies. NHS 111 will advise patients on whether they could be better and more quickly served in a different care setting such as an Urgent Treatment Centre. Some areas are trialling booking appointments at A&E via 111 to help patients save time waiting if their issue is less urgent.

2. Why is this change being made now?
This is how we think emergency care should always be accessed, but it is really important that this becomes the norm now we are living with COVID-19. To support social distancing in A&E, we need to make sure A&Es really are for emergencies only, and sometimes patients waiting in A&E may be better served elsewhere, such as their General Practice. This means A&E departments are more crowded, putting patients at greater risk of COVID-19 and making it more difficult for staff to look after patients well. Social distancing in A&E may mean that some people have to wait outside or in their car until it is safe for them to come into the department.

To prevent this, the NHS wants to support as many people as possible to be seen quickly by other services that may be more appropriate for the needs of certain patients. This is why we’re asking patients to call NHS 111 before going to their Emergency Department.

3. What should I do if I have an emergency?
If you have an emergency, call 999 immediately or go straight to your Emergency Department (A&E). If you have a health issue that is not an emergency please contact your GP, call NHS 111 for advice or visit 111.nhs.uk. If you go to your A&E, you’ll be assessed on arrival but if the clinician thinks you should be seen elsewhere, you may be asked to phone NHS 111 and/or be directed to an alternative service.

4. Can you give me an example of an emergency and a non-emergency?
Emergencies include:
• loss of consciousness
• acute confused state and fits that are not stopping
• chest pain
• breathing difficulties
• severe bleeding that cannot be stopped
• severe allergic reactions
• severe burns or scalds
• stroke

If you think you are experiencing any of these it is vital you go straight to your Emergency Department or call 999.

Examples of non-emergencies would be earache or knee pain. While these may be uncomfortable you are unlikely to be in any danger and could be treated more appropriately somewhere other than you’re A&E. For these types of issues contact your GP, call NHS 111 or visit 111.nhs.uk. If your issue is urgent but not life-threatening – like a sprained ankle – calling 111 and getting a pre-booked appointment to attend A&E can save you a long and uncertain wait in the department, allowing you to wait in the comfort of your own home until the Emergency Department is ready to see you.

5. Will I ever be turned away from an A&E department?
No-one experiencing a medical emergency will ever be turned away – you will always be treated urgently if your condition is severe or potentially life-threatening.
If your condition is not life threatening or could be treated more appropriately or quickly elsewhere you may be asked to call 111 from the hospital. By asking those with less urgent issues to call NHS 111 first for assessment rather than going straight to their A&E, we aim to save patients time and get them the care most appropriate to their needs. You could be directed to a more appropriate service or one that can see you sooner. You may also be able to wait at home and avoid a long wait in a busy Emergency Department.

6. When I call 111, who am I speaking to and are they clinically trained?
NHS 111 services are managed slightly differently in each region, but most are run by ambulance services. You will speak to trained professionals who will either be or have direct access to healthcare clinicians, and who will be able to expertly assess the urgency of your condition or illness. They will direct you to the appropriate service, book you an appointment if needed, and/or tell you what to do next.

7. My NHS 111 always sends me to A&E. Why can’t I save myself the delay and just go straight there?
In 2018, only one in ten callers to 111 was advised to visit A&E. NHS 111 can often provide health advice over the phone, or book you an appointment at an alternative service that is available. This will save you time. If you are told to go to an A&E, you will be booked in and staff at the hospital will be expecting your arrival.

8. Will I receive an appointment more quickly if I have a more urgent health need?
Yes, patients are always assessed and prioritised based on the urgency of their need.

9. If I call 111 and they say I need care from a non-emergency service, will they be able to make an appointment for me?
This varies by location, but one aim of the call-first approach is to ensure it happens more. If 111 can’t make you an appointment at an alternative service immediately, they will direct you to the best service to meet your needs.

10. What if I can’t contact NHS 111?
91% of calls to NHS 111 are answered within 60 seconds. You can also use NHS 111 online. If you have an emergency, you should call 999 or go straight to your Emergency Department. If you do not have the means to contact 111, go to your Emergency Department  and they will have facilities for you to do this. You can also contact your GP.

11. If 111 directs me to a non-urgent service, but the service tells me to go to A&E, will I be seen more quickly?
If a health professional believes that your condition has become or is becoming urgent, then you may be directed to your A&E, where you will be prioritised according to your condition. However, it will depend on the circumstances and the urgency of your medical need.

12. If I turn up at A&E and I haven’t called 111, will I need to wait longer?
Depending on your condition, you may be asked to call NHS 111 on arrival. They will assess whether you could be more appropriately treated elsewhere – and potentially more quickly. You may be given an appointment time at your GP or A&E. This will save you waiting unnecessarily. If you are directed elsewhere and choose to wait for treatment at you’re A&E, you may end up waiting longer. However, if you are seriously ill or injured you will of course be seen as quickly as possible.

13. What happens if I turn up to A&E and they tell me to call 111, but 111 then tell me to go to A&E?
This shouldn’t happen but in the unlikely event that it does you will be further assessed at your A&E and treated in a timeframe appropriate to your needs.

14. Do I need to call NHS 111 if I arrived at an A&E in an ambulance?
No, the triage and assessment by a paramedic provides a higher level of care than you would get by phoning NHS 111. If you are brought to the hospital by an ambulance, this means that the ambulance staff thinks you need further help. A&Es have always prioritised the treatment of patients who arrive by ambulance, as these people are sicker.

15. If I call 111 and they give me an appointed time to attend the A&E what will happen if I can’t get there on time?
Please do try to stick to your appointment time. Being late has a knock-on effect on the treatment of other patients, and your own care – Emergency Departments are very busy places and you may have to wait longer as a result of being late. However, what happens if you are late will depend on the severity of your condition, local policies and how busy the A&E is.

16. How far ahead of my pre-booked appointment will I need to turn up?
It is important to turn up on time as being late has a knock-on effect but arriving early does not mean you will be seen before your allotted time. We would advise checking in no more than 15 minutes before your appointment.

17. What happens if someone gets a booked appointment for A&E but doesn’t show up? Will someone check that they’re ok?
We expect all departments that book-in patients to have systems in place to assess whether a follow up is necessary. It is particularly important that vulnerable patients or those at risk of abuse who miss appointments are checked up on.

18. Will anyone else other than 111 be able to book me into A&E (e.g. GP practice etc)?
No, but your GP may tell you to go to your A&E if your needs warrant it.

19. What if I go to A&E and am advised to go to a different service but I still want to wait there and be seen?
You will be seen but you might to have to wait longer. You may find that you will be seen quicker by going to the other service.

20. What if my condition changes while I’m waiting at home?
This depends on the change in your condition; if you become seriously ill, call an ambulance, otherwise call NHS 111 again.

21. How do I cancel an appointment made by 111?
If you no longer need your appointment, please call NHS 111 to cancel it. Someone else may be able to use your timeslot.

22. If I’m told not to go to A&E, where else might I be directed to?
This will vary locally depending on what is available. You may be directed to a pharmacist, your GP, A&E or given advice on how best to self-care if your call advisor thinks you are safe to do so. You may also be directed to an Urgent Treatment Centre. These are facilities you can go to if  you need urgent medical attention, but it’s not a life-threatening situation. If you are unsure about what service is right for you, call NHS 111.

23. I have a complicated ongoing medical problem that is looked after by the hospital. When I get ill, I normally go straight to the A&E and they call the specialist to come and see me. Should I carry on doing this?
It might be better for you to try and contact the specialists that look after you before you come to the Emergency Department. Some patients with complicated medical problems need to be looked after in places other than the Emergency Department, particularly if they are vulnerable to infections. Obviously, if you are extremely ill, you should call an ambulance.

Watch our online AGM and Review of the Year

Thanks to everyone who came along to our online AGM last week. We hope you enjoyed hearing about our work over the last 12 months, and also from our guests from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who spoke about accessing healthcare via digital means, assuring quality of consultations, and what the future holds.

The event can be viewed below. There is still time to ask a question – about our work, about digital access to services, or anything to do with local NHS and social care services. Get your questions to us by 30 October; we will publish all questions and answers here in the next few weeks.

 

Healthwatch Northumberland AGM and Review of the Year 2020

 

Annual Survey 2020 Report

Every year we run a survey asking about your NHS, health and care experiences from the previous year. By telling us about the care you received and what’s important to you, you help us set our work for the coming year so that we can be more effective on your behalf. This year we had 814 respondents to our annual survey. We conducted 31 events and heard from people face to face, online, and by post.

How satisfied were people with health and social care services?

Health care

Most people (75%) were satisfied with the health services they had used in the last year and most felt that the quality of health services had stayed the same (54%).

Social care

Most respondents had not used social care services in the last 12 months (75%). 15% of respondents were satisfied with social care services, and 12% of respondents thought social care services had stayed the same.

Access to services vs quality of care

73% of respondents were satisfied with the quality of care they had received, with 9% saying they were dissatisfied. Just over a quarter of respondents found it difficult to access services (26%), with 49% reporting they had found it easy to access services.

Read the report below.

Healthwatch Northumberland Annual Survey 2020 Report

Come on Board – New Members Wanted

Healthwatch Northumberland Board Members

We are looking for exceptional people with a keen interest in local health and social care services to join our board.

Healthwatch Northumberland is the independent champion for health and social care across the county.  As the landscape of health and social care changes due to COVID, this is a crucial time to become involved.  By joining our skilled and enthusiastic board you will use your local knowledge to help us give a voice to people who use services, influence positive change to services and help meet the health and social care needs of our communities.

As you will appreciate, our aim to act as an independent ‘voice’ of the people of Northumberland in all matters related to health and social care, is even more important in these challenging times.

This particular role is to become an Independent Board Member working within an established team, details of which are given in the Board Recruitment Information pack below.

For more information contact Derry Nugent on: 07590 880016 or email: derryn@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk

The closing date for applications is 9.00am on 30 October 2020.

 

Healthwatch Northumberland Board Recruitment Information Pack

Healthwatch Northumberland Board Member Application Form

 

 

 

 

 

 

Portfolio Items

Events

Public Coronavirus Question Time

Health and council leaders in Northumberland are to host their first ever online coronavirus public question time.
While case numbers have steadied, they’re still too high in the county, and following the recent introduction of a national lockdownleaders will be answering residents’ questions on Wednesday 18 November, at 5pm.
The panel for Wednesday’s broadcast will include:
  • Cllr Glen Sanderson, Leader of the Council
  • Liz Morgan , Director of Public Health
  • Daljit Lally, Chief Executive
The broadcast, the first of its kind in the region, will look at the current Covid-19 picture in Northumberland, what the national lockdown means for the county, and answer queries or concerns people have.
People can submit their questions to the council via a simple online form 
While council and health bosses might not be able to answer every question, the aim is for the public broadcast to become a regular event and cover the most commonly-asked issues.
Residents will be able to watch the broadcast live on the council’s Facebook page 
Council Leader Glen Sanderson said: “We know the impact this pandemic has had on all our lives and the hard work everyone has put in to stay safe and drive numbers down.
“People have already made huge sacrifices, and many feel exhausted by the strain that it has caused. We have a duty to support our communities to continue all their hard work to get infections under control, and we’re in a good position to build on that.
“The situation is changing almost daily so this is a great opportunity to find out the very latest information from a number of experts, as well as hearing about some of the questions that affect you and your communities – whether you work in, live in or visit our county.
We know this public question time approach has been well-received in other parts of the country and we’d really encourage people to let us know questions they might have which we can address during our first broadcast.”

Our Review of the Year and AGM

Our Review of the year and AGM will take place online on Wednesday 21 October, from 2.00pm and 4.00pm. Find out about our work and how we made a difference to people in Northumberland over the last 12 months.

As the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care says ‘People should have phone or video consultations with their doctors unless there is a clinical reason not to’, and that there had been a ‘hugely positive’ response to virtual appointments during the coronavirus pandemic, we will also have guest presenters talking about technology in NHS and social care services. We’ll explore how the coronavirus crisis has accelerated the move to online appointments and consultations, what has worked well and not so well, and what we can expect in the future.

You can ask a question in advance or at the Q&A session in our webinar.

Register for the Healthwatch Northumberland Review of the Year

Care Homes – keeping in touch with loved ones

People are telling us they are worried about care homes continuing to be closed to nearly all visits.

They understand it is safer for residents and staff and the extra efforts made to maintain the quality of life in the homes.   But after 6 months, people say they can see the effect on their loved ones, and their own, health and wellbeing.

It seems the situation may go on for some time yet.

Sharing good practice could help make this difficult time a bit better.   If your relative, loved one or friend lives in a care home we would like to know what is being done to keep you in touch day to day and on special occasions like birthdays.

We would like to know your experience of:

  • Using video calls (FaceTime, Zoom etc) or telephone calls. Does the home support these?  How many times a week and how long?  Does a member of staff help your loved one with the call?
  • Socially distanced visits. Does the home support ‘window’ visits.  How many times a week and how long?
  • How does the home keep you informed about how your loved one is getting on (apart from necessary issues about their care or health). Eg manager updates, photographs, videos
  • Does the home have a programme of group and 1 to 1 activities? Has your loved one taken part?
  • Has the home asked you what, within the current restrictions, would make this time easier?
  • What, within the current restrictions, would make it better for you and your love one?
  • When restrictions are eventually eased (not totally lifted) what would help you and your loved one?

The forums will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom.

If you would like to take part please contact Laura Kane: laurak@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or call 03332 408468.

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

 

Children and Young People’s Services

Are you a voluntary or community organisation working with young people? If so, we’d like you to join us for an open discussion on children and young peoples services, particularly around mental health services.

The forums will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom.

If you would like to take part please contact Laura Kane: laurak@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or call 03332 408468.

Find out more about our other online forums

 

Cancer services: Join our online forum

If you, or someone close to you, have used cancer services in the last 12 months, we’d love to hear about your experiences at our online forum.

Lead Cancer Nurse, Amanda, from Northumbria Healthcare, and Jo from the Northern Cancer Alliance will be there to answer your questions.

You can join us as a cancer patient or carer or as someone who works with people using cancer services, or just if you have an interest in local services and support.

For those who aren’t able or would rather not attend, questions for Amanda, Jo, or Healthwatch Northumberland can be sent via text to: 07413 385275 anytime before 12 August.

The forums will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom.

If you would like to take part please contact Laura Kane: laurak@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or call 03332 408468.

Find out more about our other online forums

 

Laburnum Surgery closure – online forum

NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) has made the decision to close Laburnum GP Surgery in Ashington.

The CCG’s primary care commissioning committee made the decision, last week, to end the contract of Laburnum Medical Group following inspections carried out by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and ongoing investigations carried out by the CCG, which identified issues with the quality of care provided.

The practice, which provides healthcare for 2400 patients from Ashington and the surrounding areas, including Wansbeck, Morpeth, Newbiggin and Bedlington, will close by the end of July.

Patients at the practice have been written to and allocated another GP at a nearby surgery.

We are holding an online forum for patients to discuss any concerns they have about the closure of the surgery and their ongoing healthcare.

To register please email: laurak@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk or call: 03332 408468.

The forums will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom. If you would like help setting up Zoom on your device please ask.

 

Read more about the closure of Laburnum Surgery

Find out more about our other online forums

 

Share your experiences – join our online forum

As we will be unable to get out and about across the county to meet with and listen to people for a while, we’re holding some public online forums, and we’d like you to join us. If you are unable to take part but would like to tell us about your experiences of these services, Caroline and Lesley will be available by phone, text and email each Wednesday between 3.00pm and 4.00pm to listen, answer any questions and help with providing information about services.

The forums will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom.

Whilst some of our forums are on specific issues and services, this one is a chance to tell us about any health or social care service you’ve used in the last 12 months. That could be hospitals, GPs, care homes, NHS 111, mental health services, maternity services or dentists and pharmacies.

If you would like to take part please contact Laura Kane: laurak@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or call 03332 408468.

Find out more about our other online forums

 

Mental Health services: Join our online forum

As we will be unable to get out and about across the county to meet with and listen to people for a while, we’re holding some public online forums, and we’d like you to join us. If you are unable to take part but would like to tell us about your experiences of these services, Caroline and Lesley will be available by phone, text and email each Wednesday between 3.00pm and 4.00pm to listen, answer any questions and help with providing information about services.

The forums will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom.

The subject of this online forum is mental health services, so if you’d like to share your experiences of services in the last 12 months, or those of someone close to you, please join us.

If you would like to take part please contact Laura Kane: laurak@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or call 03332 408468.

Find out more about our other online forums

 

Unpaid Carers and Mental Health Online Forum

As we will be unable to get out and about across the county to meet with and listen to people for a while, we’re holding some public online forums, and we’d like you to join us. If you are unable to take part but would like to tell us about your experiences of these services, Caroline and Lesley will be available by phone, text and email each Wednesday between 3.00pm and 4.00pm to listen, answer any questions and help with providing information about services.

The forums will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom.

The subject of this online forum is unpaid carers and mental health services, so if you’d like to share your experiences of services in the last 12 months, or those of someone close to you, please join us.

If you would like to take part please contact Laura Kane, laurak@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or call 03332 408468.

 

Find out about our other online forums

 

Maternity services: Join our online forum

As we will be unable to get out and about across the county to meet with and listen to people for a while, we’re holding some public online forums, and we’d like you to join us. If you are unable to take part but would like to tell us about your experiences of these services, Caroline and Lesley will be available by phone, text and email each Wednesday between 3.00pm and 4.00pm to listen, answer any questions and help with providing information about services.

The forums will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom.

The subject of this online forum is maternity services, so if you’d like to share your experiences of services in the last 12 months, or those of someone close to you, please join us.

If you would like to take part please contact Lesley Tweddell, lesleyt@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or 07803 427 466.

 

Find out about our other online forums