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Care Homes – keeping in touch with loved ones

Care home lockdown: how are you keeping in touch with your loved one?

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 six 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 for 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), for example, manager updates, photographs, videos
  • Does the home have a programme of group and one-to-one 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?

You can tell us your experiences at one of the ways here on our contact page, text us  on 07413 385275 to make an appointment to speak to one of our team, or come along to our public online forum  around these issues on Wednesday 11 November, 2.00pm – 3.00pm.

 

COVID-19: What people are telling us

Each month, thousands of people share their experiences about NHS and social care services with Healthwatches across the country. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this has ranged from the effect lockdown has had on carers, to the problems getting emergency dental treatment.

In Healthwatch England’s latest briefing they outline the issues over 19,700 people have raised, as well as taking an in-depth look at how technology has been used in response to the pandemic.

You can find a summary of the key points below or click the following link to read the full report:

Read the full report here

The impact of COVID-19

At the start of lockdown, people told us how the measures introduced to help control the spread of coronavirus were affecting their care.

Changes to routine and planned care – In many cases, people were unable to find the information they needed to understand what they should expect from services and were unclear about what the next steps for their treatment or care would be – leaving them feeling stressed and frustrated.

Shielding measures – Those who were shielding told us about problems in getting transport to their hospital care. For some people, the cost of attending one or more hospital appointments was too expensive to arrange private transport, especially if the hospital was far from home.

Access to prescription medicines – Initially people were struggling to get through to their GP or pharmacy by phone, and others experienced delays in getting their medication. This caused anxiety for people running out of supplies, particularly for those with long term conditions.

What can services learn?

  • People need clear, accurate and consistent information about their care and the services they use.
  • People’s experiences of hospital appointments do not start and end at the hospital doors – their journey begins at home, so transport arrangements must be considered.

Lockdown begins to ease

As lockdown restrictions began to reduce, we started to hear new concerns from people.

  • Worries about the future – People raised questions with us about how services can reopen safely, reported problems using services that are supposedly already open for business and expressed frustration at some NHS services being slow to reopen compared to other areas of the economy.
  • Testing for COVID-19 – While some people found visiting a testing centre easy, we also heard that the online booking process was difficult to use and there were concerns about the accessibility of testing centres.

What have people been telling us throughout?

  • Lack of accessible information – Throughout the pandemic, we have heard about the difficulties of finding up-to-date information in the languages or formats people need – especially when advice from the Government was frequently changing.
  • Emergency dental care – People did not know how to access emergency dental care – causing them extra stress while experiencing acute dental pain or other symptoms. Many others have felt they have no option but to go private if they want to receive treatment for what their dentist considered to be non-emergency treatment.
  • Access to B12 injections – Although some people received injections, either as normal or at a different GP practice, we also heard that in many areas there was an inconsistent approach to providing this treatment.
  • Care homes – People’s feedback highlighted that while family and friends were unable to visit their loved ones in care homes, timely and regular communication from care home staff really mattered.
  • The hidden effect on families and carers – The lack of respite has left many carers feeling stressed, isolated and forgotten about. We also heard about the difficulties some people faced helping the person that they care for to understand and remember the lockdown measures.
  • Praise for health and social care workers – Throughout the pandemic, we have heard about how much people appreciate the hard work of health and social care professionals during this time of unprecedented challenges.
  • The impact on people’s mental health – Since the start of lockdown, we have heard about the effects of the pandemic on people’s mental health and wellbeing. For some people, the changes to the services they would usually access have left them feeling abandoned – with infrequent telephone appointments not meeting their needs.

What can services learn?

  • Accessible information and meeting people’s communication needs must be considered from the start and should not be an afterthought. The information must also be shared through trusted sources, such as community centres and groups.
  • Families and carers have been providing even more care than usual during the pandemic – but this often goes unnoticed, and many need more support.
  • Good communications between care homes staff residents and their family and friends is key, especially while visiting restrictions are in place. Where appropriate, this should include involving residents’ families or next of kin in decision making about their care.
  • The mental health impacts of the pandemic are affecting both existing service users and non-service users. Mental health services will require investment to support people in both the short and long-term.

Digital healthcare

The pandemic has seen the digitisation of many health and social care services overnight. While digital appointments don’t work for everyone, and services should not be exclusively digital, it’s important healthcare services embrace technology for those who find it an efficient way to communicate. Our recent work in this area demonstrates how services are embracing this shift to digital healthcare:

The doctor will zoom you now

How the new NHS COVID-19 tracing app offers better data privacy

Read the full briefing to find out what we can learn from the rapid roll-out of virtual NHS consultations, and the importance of involving patients from the start when setting up new services.

 

If you would like to share your own experiences of health and social care services during the pandemic you can do so here:

Tell us your coronavirus story

Care Home Visits – New Guidance

The arrival of Covid-19 has meant that a number of restrictions have been placed on care homes to prevent the spread of infection and ensure the health and safety of both care workers and its residents. As the rate of infection is decreasing across the country, these restrictions are being lifted, however, a number of changes will be put in place to keep you and your loved ones safe.

This guidance has been taken from gov.uk.

When will I be able to visit a care home?

All decisions on the circumstances, times and frequency of visits to care homes will ultimately be made by the care home providers themselves. These decisions should be made in line with advice from local directors of public health, who will be developing local ‘dynamic risk assessments’ based on the principles outlined in the government’s guidance.

Please be aware that whilst the ability to visit care homes is looking to increase, it is still being controlled based on these risk assessments and is subject to the specific circumstances of the care home and those living and working within it. This is likely to mean that the frequency of visits will be limited and/or controlled for some time.

Do I need to take a test to be able to visit my relative?

No, however if you are displaying any symptoms of coronavirus you should not visit the care home, self-isolate and order a test immediately.

You may be asked screening questions upon arrival. These include:

  1. Have you been feeling unwell recently?
  2. Have you had recent onset of a new continuous cough?
  3. Do you have a high temperature? A care home may consider providing a temperature check for all visitors to provide confidence to visitors and to staff.
  4. Have you noticed a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell?
  5. Have you had recent contact (in the last 14 days) with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or someone with confirmed COVID-19 – if yes, should you be self-isolating as a family member or as a contact advised to do so by NHS Test and Trace?

How do I travel to the care home?

It is encouraged that you walk to the home or use your own transport where possible.

It might be that some assistance is required to enable visitors who are especially vulnerable to get to the care home. Care homes may consider giving visitors telephone numbers or website information of organisations which can offer advice on safe travel arrangements if required.

What is likely to change when I visit my loved one?

You can expect to see a number of changes but remember they are to keep you and your loved ones safe. These include:

  • Care workers will use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in line with guidance from Public Health England and you are will be asked to wear a mask and/or visor when you are in the building. If you are making close personal contact with a resident you may need to wear PPE which goes beyond a face covering.
  • Care homes with an ‘open door’ policy may have to work towards a more regimented booking system. Ad hoc visits are not advised.
  • Care homes should support NHS Test and Trace by keeping a temporary record (including address and phone number) of current and previous residents, staff and visitors, as well as keeping track of visitor numbers and staff.
  • Visitors should have no contact with other residents and minimal contact with care home staff (less than 15 minutes / 2 metres). Where needed, conversations with staff can be arranged over the phone following an in-person visit

How many people can visit a care home at a time?

To limit risk, where visits do go ahead, this should be limited to a single constant visitor, per resident, wherever possible. This is in order to limit the overall numbers of visitors to the care home and the consequent risk of infection.

Will I need to wash my hands or use hand sanitiser?

Yes, visitors should be reminded and provided facilities to wash their hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser on entering and leaving the home, and to catch coughs and sneezes in tissues and clean their hands after disposal of the tissues.

What happens if I can’t see my family or friend in the care home?

If there is a restriction to visitors in place, alternative ways of communicating between residents and their families and friends should be discussed and offered. The care home should also provide regular updates to residents’ loved ones on their mental and physical health, how they are coping and identify any additional ways they might be better supported, including any cultural or religious needs.

Visits to a Covid-19 positive resident should only be made in essential circumstances (for example, end of life).

Share your experiences at our Online Forums

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. All forums take place from 2.00pm – 3.00pm.

If you are unable to take part but would like to tell us about your experiences of these services, members of the team will be available by phone, text and email (see below) each Wednesday after the forums 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. If you would like help to set up Zoom on your device please ask.

 

Online Forums – all take place between 2.00pm and 3.00pm

Wednesday 20 May: Dementia Services

Wednesday 27 May: Adult Social Services (to include support to live independently, care homes, learning disability services)

 

Wednesday 3 June: Mental Health Services

Wednesday 10 June: Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Wednesday 17 June: Maternity Services

 

Wednesday 1 July: Mental Health Services

Wednesday 8 July: NHS, Health and Social Care Services – any service you’ve used in the last 12 months

Wednesday 15 July: Unpaid Carers and Mental Health Services

 

Wednesday 12 August: Cancer Services

 

Wednesday 9 September: 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.

 

Wednesday 18 November:  Dementia Services

 

If you would like to take part in a forum please contact Laura Kane, laurak@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or call 03332 408468. We can also help you set up Zoom on your device so please get in touch if you would like some guidance.

Annual Report 2019/20

Our Annual Report for the financial year 2019-20 is out now. Have a look to see what we’ve been up to, what people told us about their experiences of NHS, health and social care and how we made a difference to people in Northumberland.

 

Healthwatch Northumberland Annual Report 2019/20.

Have a question about health and social care?

 

As we can’t hold our usual Meet and Greet session before the next Healthwatch Northumberland board meeting on Tuesday 23 June, we are inviting you to send us your questions instead.

If you use health or social care services in Northumberland or want to know more about Healthwatch Northumberland please send your question to Derry Nugent: derryn@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk by 5pm on Monday 22 June. We will answer your question within ten working days. Have a look at the agenda.

View Project Coordinator Derry Nugent’s video message below.

Ask the Board – Derry Nugent

 

 

Call-out for people to lend a hand for the NHS

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is appealing to people who could provide an extra pair of helping hands in these unprecedented times to come forward.

As nationally the NHS looks for volunteers, the trust, which has a hugely-valued volunteer service, is calling on those fit and able between the ages of 16 and 68 to support staff working in hospitals and in the community across Northumberland and North Tyneside to get in touch.

Recognised nationally for the quality of its volunteering programmes, Northumbria, like many NHS organisations, has seen numbers dwindle due to the national guidelines to protect over 70s and those with underlying health conditions.

People do not need medical or care experience, just a commitment to help the NHS cope with the increase in demand as a result of coronavirus.

On a busy ward this could include helping to change beds, making a cuppa, chatting to patients or running errands to help staff speed up processes. Within the community, this could mean linking with other groups to support community health services or those who are socially isolated.

Volunteers would not be asked to carry out the duties of paid staff.

Sir James Mackey, Chief Executive of Northumbria Healthcare said “Quite simply, the NHS here in Northumberland and North Tyneside needs your help. We greatly value the contribution of our hundreds of volunteers and the support they provide to our patients and staff in our hospitals and in the community.

“Sadly, many of our current volunteers have been asked to stand down due to the national guidance. This is absolutely the right thing to do to protect them and their families and, already, we are deeply missing them. As we prepare for more and more patients to need our help, the time is now for us to ask the general public to come forward to support us at this incredibly busy time.

“Please be assured that we only be asking people to provide an extra pair of helping hands which will make a massive difference to our patients and staff during this difficult period.”

People volunteering their time at Northumbria Healthcare must:

  • Be aged between 16 and 68
  • Be fit and well with no underlying health conditions or live, or care for, anyone who does
  • Be subject to checks by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)
  • Not have symptoms of a high temperature and/or persistent cough

Northumbria Healthcare already works in partnership with Helpforce to ensure volunteering is an integral part of healthcare and makes a positive difference for patients, volunteers and NHS staff.

Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett, founder of Helpforce, said “As we face unprecedented changes to our way of life, we are working hard with Northumbria Healthcare and our colleagues across our health and care services by looking at practical ways volunteers can help take the strain off frontline services.

“Keeping you and your loved ones safe is an absolute priority, but we must not forget those alone and at higher risk. Please be confident that we are dedicated to doing more and helping our partners to do the same.”

To volunteer or for more information, contact volunteers@northumbria-healthcare.nhs.uk, 0191 203 1511 or 07768 570178.

Changes to how we operate

We are following government advice and guidelines in light of the coronavirus outbreak and have made changes to the way we operate. We have postponed all of the community events we had planned and from Monday 23 March our staff will be mainly working from home. We are still very much open for business, so if you want to give us feedback on a service you’ve used, or if you are looking for information on local health or support for a particular issue, you can call our signposting service. Get in touch on 03332 408468 or email info@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk.

Our board meeting scheduled for 24 March will not physically take place, but our board members are very much working away in the background and discussing future plans for Healthwatch Northumberland.

We will keep you updated with our plans on our website, Facebook and Twitter pages as things develop nationally.

Latest NHS coronavirus guidance

Quarterly Report October – December 2019

Introduction

As a listening organisation working across Northumberland, Healthwatch Northumberland wants to hear what people like about health and social care services and what can be improved. We act on what people are saying, sharing their views with those who have the power to make change happen. We also help people find the information they need about services in their area and record this as ‘signposting’.

We receive feedback from people living in Northumberland about their experiences throughout the year. This report shares a summary of the feedback collected from October to December 2019.  The next report will cover January – March 2020.

 

This quarter we received feedback and enquiries from:

  • Telephone calls, emails and social media (31%)
  • Postal surveys and feedback forms (12%)
  • Talking to people at local engagement events (27%)
  • Through a meeting (27%)
  • Through a third party (4%)

Areas of Focus

We are open to all feedback about health and social care services. Responses to our Annual Survey helped us to identify three specific Areas of Focus which we are prioritising in 2019/20:

  1. General Practitioner Services (GP Services)
  2. Mental Health Services, including dementia care
  3. Access to Services

Aims

The report aims to increase understanding of:

  • Who Healthwatch Northumberland is hearing from
  • What people are saying
    • The general sentiment of comments
  • What people are experiencing
    • What is working well?
    • Where there are areas for improvement?

Feedback

Between October and December 2019, we received 26 pieces of feedback through talking to people at local engagement events, telephone calls, emails, our website, surveys and feedback forms and other sources. Alongside this, we signposted 17 people to services. Altogether we had 39 different recordable interactions this quarter.

This report explores who Healthwatch Northumberland is hearing from across the county, presenting a summary demographic information of those who got in touch. Demographic information includes location, gender, age, and whether the respondent is sharing their own health and social care experience or speaking on behalf of a friend or relative.

We also look at whether the feedback is negative or positive, with specific reference to the service type (e.g. primary care, secondary care, mental health, social care), as well as whether the feedback relates specifically to quality of care or access to services.

Read the Quarterly Report for October to December 2019

Events

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.

Find out more about our other online forums

 

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

 

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

 

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 Lesley Tweddell, lesleyt@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or 07803 427 466.

 

Other online forums:

Wednesday 20 May 2.00pm – 3.00pm: Dementia Services.

Wednesday 27 May 2.00 – 3.00pm: Adult Social Services (to include support to live independently, care homes, learning disability services).

 

Adult Social Care: 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 adult social care services (including support to live independently, care homes, learning disability 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.

 

Other forums:

Wednesday 20 May 2.00 – 3.00pm: Dementia Services.

Wednesday 3 June 2.00 – 3.00pm: Mental Health Services.

Dementia 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 dementia 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.

 

Coming soon:

Wednesday 27 May 2.00 – 3.00pm: Adult Social Services (to include support to live independently, care homes, learning disability services).

Wednesday 3 June 2.00 – 3.00pm: Mental Health Services.