A main part of our role at Healthwatch is to make sure that people are getting the support that they need. Navigating the health and social care system can be difficult and quite often people don't know who to turn to for support.
Here are some example of how speaking to your local Healthwatch can make a difference for you and your community.
1. Using technology to help local communities stay healthy
78% of the UK own a smartphone, but not everyone knows how you can use it to stay healthy. Healthwatch Islington partnered with mobile phone provider Three to launch ‘Log on’, a project aimed at helping refugee and migrant communities learn digital skills to manage their health conditions.
Together, they trained people from different community groups, including Greek Cypriots, Bangladeshi, Somali, Arab and Eritrean. Participants learnt how to book a doctor’s appointment online, order a repeat prescription, and find information about services. They also used self-care apps to encourage a healthy lifestyle and avoid isolation.
Thanks to the project more people have unlocked the full potential of their phones to find local support and stay well.
2. Helping people who are Trans get the right support
People who identify as Trans have a higher risk of experiencing mental health issues, in part due to discrimination, social isolation and homophobia.
Six local Healthwatch found this was true for many of the 225 Trans people they spoke to. Three quarters said they had experienced anxiety or depression, two-thirds had self-harmed, and almost half had planned suicide. Overall, people lacked trust in the NHS and felt they faced discrimination and a lack of understanding about Trans issues.
Thanks to people sharing their views, Healthwatch Bath & North East Somerset, Healthwatch Bristol, Healthwatch North Somerset, Healthwatch South Gloucestershire, Healthwatch Swindon and Healthwatch Wiltshire have been able to influence local health strategies to ensure Trans people receive the services they need. In light of Healthwatch recommendations, the local trust is reviewing staff training, policies and practices to be more inclusive. It has also committed to look at how potential negative attitudes towards Trans people can be addressed.
3. More prisoners can access community dentists
The 85,000 people living in prisons in England and Wales are entitled to the same level and quality of services as other NHS patients. They’re more likely than the general population to experience mental and physical health problems.
Healthwatch Staffordshire, in partnership with other organisations, reached out to people living in local prisons. Speaking to men and women, young and old, they uncovered issues which services have now taken steps to address.
For example, prisoners told them they couldn't get a special licence to leave prison to register with a dentist.
The prison service has reviewed the issue and is now granting licences. Healthwatch Staffordshire also heard prisoners need better information. As a result, the induction for new prisoners has been changed to make them more aware of how healthcare in prison works and how to access support.