The value of listening: Annual Report 2023-24

Healthwatch Northumberland Annual Report 2023-24

This year over 12,000 people shared their experiences of health and social care services with us, helping to raise awareness of issues and improve care, or came to us for clear advice and information about topics such as mental health and the cost of living crisis. We published 20 reports about the improvements people would like to see in health and social care services. Our most popular report was Lloyds Pharmacy Enter and View which highlighted the negative impact for patients at the start of pharmacy closures in the county.

How we’ve made a difference this year

  • We drew attention to the impact of pharmacy changes on vulnerable people in the South East of the county
  • We helped the NHS understand why parents in Blyth might attend A&E with a poorly child rather than contact a GP
  • Two young volunteers moved onto higher education with knowledge and experience gained from their time at Healthwatch Northumberland
  • Our website gave people the health information they needed. Our most popular pages were mental health, dementia and LGBT support
  • Our ‘Listening AGM’ enabled members of the public to speak directly to senior decision-makers about the health and care changes they wanted
  • 60 people at our online session heard from the charity Battle Scars about the myths and realities of self-harm
  • We published a guide to help with cost of living pressures and distributed it widely across the county
  • We listened to parents about Health Visiting Services. The provider is now working on an action plan based on our recommendations

Listening to your experiences

Services can’t make improvements without hearing your views. That’s why, over the last year, we have made listening to feedback from all areas of the community a priority. This allows us to understand the full picture, and feed this back to services and help them improve. Our report outlines how we’ve listened to the experiences of local people, including our work to hear from families their experiences of Health Visiting Services, our information on how to get the most from your GP surgery, and how we made sure the views of people living in Harbottle were listened to around a proposal to introduce a mobile healthcare unit in the village.

Hearing from all communities

We have continued to make sure we hear from communities we hear from less frequently. Over the past year we have done this by:

  • Holding monthly drop-in sessions in all areas of the county
  • Hearing from people with learning disabilities about their experiences of health and social care
  • Being part of the Fishermen’s Mission Seafit events at Amble Harbour, bringing services to fishermen, who can find accessing care services difficult due to the nature of their job
  • Working with senior Adult Social Care staff to create the Adult Social Care People’s Advisory Panel
Information and signposting

We can provide confidential and free information to help you understand your options and get the help you need, in line with a ‘making every contact count’ approach. Whether it’s finding a GP practice, making a complaint or choosing a good care home for a loved one – you can count on us. For example, we heard from someone who was having some struggles in their home, and it was unclear what support was already in place. They were unaware of their GP’s Social Prescribing Service, so we referred them on for some help. As a result of this referral and the excellent work of the Social Prescribing Link Worker, the person now has help with weekly cleaning and household tasks as well as receiving a small cash grant for help with heating, some shopping vouchers and other food items to help with the cost of living.

Our online information sessions were a chance for over 250 people to hear from a wide variety of local and national charities and organisations. These included Eating Disorders North East, NECA Gambling North East, Arthritis Action, The Menopause Charity and The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy, which spoke about the benefits of strength training.

As we were increasingly hearing about the effects on people’s health due to the rising cost of living, we decided to collate information on different support services that exist in Northumberland and produce a printed ‘cost of living support in Northumberland‘ booklet.

Next steps

Over the next year we will keep working across the county, reaching out especially to people less often listened to, for example, people whose work or lives mean they face difficulties in using health and care services. Thank you to everyone who responded to our Annual Survey and for telling us what you think we should work on next year. You said these are

  • Care in the home
  • Hospital discharge
  • Pharmacy

We will continue to work on GP access, dentistry, mental health and audiology services.

View the Healthwatch Northumberland Annual Report 2024 or download a pdf version.


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