Stories of change - number 25 #NHS70 #ItStartsWithYou

To help celebrate 70 years of the NHS we're collecting 70 stories of how people's experiences are being used by health and care services and professionals to help make them better.
Healthwatch staff

No.25 - Information for people with learning disabilities made more accessible

Over 330 people with limited or nonverbal communication spoke to Healthwatch Lancashire about their communication needs.
After issues were raised about the communication by services and the awareness of staff, a number of steps have been taken by the local NHS. As well as better staff training, services are also making sure more information for patients is made available in an easy read format.
Thanks to people speaking up about their experience, the local hospital is also using this information to design a new learning disabilities service.
A receptionist showing a lady a form at the desk.

No.24 Young volunteers help hundreds of students have their say about mental health services in Wiltshire

Healthwatch Wiltshire has given hundreds of students a chance to speak up about their mental health, as well as any other concerns they face when using health services.

In partnership with Youth Action Wiltshire and local schools, Healthwatch mentored a group of students, supporting them to learn new skills and build confidence. Some of the students were given further training to become ‘Young Listeners’, visiting schools and speaking to other students to understand their views on mental health.

Treat me like a person, not a child. Work with me to find a solution, don’t talk at me from over a desk like an interrogation.
— Emma, student

To help show how things could work differently, the Young Listeners presented their findings to the Health and Wellbeing board and local schools.

Thanks to the Young Listeners, NHS staff and providers now have a greater understanding of the issues faced by young people, and how services can change to better meet their needs.

No.23 Information from GPs easier to understand in Camden

Local residents in Camden told Healthwatch that GP services were not properly supporting those with communication needs. 
Thanks to people speaking up about their experiences, a number of changes have been made to improve people’s experiences of visiting the doctor.
For example, at all GP practices in Camden: 
  • Patients can now register using large print or easy read forms 
  • GPs ask new patients to tell them about any communication support needs they may have 
  • Staff are given deaf awareness training to improve how they communicate with patients

Find out more

Read more about some of these award winning stories from this year's Healthwatch Network Awards.

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No.22 Hospital discharge made easier thanks to people speaking up in Hillingdon

Over 170 people shared their feedback with Healthwatch Hillingdon, resulting in changes being made to improve people’s overall discharge experience at a local hospital.

Patients spoke about the poor communication and lack of information, as well as long waits to be discharged from hospital, often without access to food or water. 80% of older people said they were well cared for in hospital; however, the satisfaction rate dropped considerably during the discharge process.

Healthwatch also spoke to staff who expressed a real frustration about the challenges they encountered when discharging patients.

As a result of the recommendations made my Healthwatch Hillingdon to commissioners and providers, a number of improvements have been made for those waiting to be discharged:

  • Water and food is available
  • Waiting times for medication and patient transport have been reduced
  • Processes are now in place to identify carers and support them when entering and leaving hospital
  • Patients have more information about their stay in hospital, the discharge process and their onward care
  • A standardised discharge process was introduced across all wards to reduce unnecessary delays, reducing the time people spend in hospital and the number of patients being re-admitted

Thanks to people speaking to Healthwatch Hillingdon, improvements were made to people's discharge experience at a local hospital.



No.21 Healthwatch Wirral team up with local hospital to support over 12,000 with health and care issues

Thanks to people in Wirral speaking up about their health and social care issues, a new service has been developed to help people get the information they need.

Healthwatch Wirral teamed up with Arrowe Hospital to provide Infobank. The Infobank provides people in need with easier access to services and answers to questions about their further care.

A key role of the Infobank is to also be there for patients when they don’t know who to ask for help, or where to turn to. Sam was admitted to hospital in an emergency and became worried about her pet who was home alone. The Infobank was able to arrange for the pet to be placed into foster care, leaving Sam able to focus on her own wellbeing during a critical time.

Healthwatch Wirral also used the Infobank to find out what people think about the services they use, and have used this feedback to help make improvements such as interpretation and translation support for patients in need.

It is great to be able to reach out and help patients that might otherwise have been left to struggle alone.
— Karen, Healthwatch Wirral

No.20 Checklist of care needs leave residents in Surrey feeling less anxious about leaving hospital.

Patients, families and carers spoke to Healthwatch Surrey about how stressful and confusing they found their experience when leaving hospital. People felt that they weren’t given clear information from the hospital, with some aspects of discharge not discussed or planned, including further transport arrangements, where to go for support, and how to take their medication.

In response, Healthwatch Surrey worked together with patients, staff and other organisations to develop a checklist of care needs. The checklist provides patients and their families and carers with the information they need to ensure a safe and effective discharge.

Thanks to people speaking up to Healthwatch Surrey, other hospitals are also listening to people’s feedback and are looking at how they can use this method to make leaving hospital a better experience for all.

No.19 Maternal care made better in Northamptonshire thanks to parents speaking up

Over 500 parents shared their views and experiences with Healthwatch Northamptonshire about maternity services.

Whilst most parents were happy with the care they received, others raised concerns about their experience during labour, where they were left alone or in pain.

Recommendations made from Healthwatch Northamptonshire to help inform future plans for local maternity services:

  • Being able to see the same midwife or team of health professionals 
  • Allowing teams to share information so that parents don’t have to repeat their story 
  • Clearer advice for parents to help them make informed decisions 
  • Better choices about where to see a midwife 
  • Stopping unannounced visits from health visitors after birth 

Thanks to parents and families speaking up, maternal care in Northamptonshire will be more tailored to what people need in the future.

No. 18 Stroke patients in County Durham – making sure people get the support they need after a stroke

Stroke patients in County Durham were surprised to be told their community support service was being shut down with no knowledge of any replacement service. The patients reached out to their local Healthwatch for help. Healthwatch County Durham secured an extension of the existing service from commissioners, and at their request gathered feedback from over 155 patients and carers to help shape a new service to support stroke survivors once they leave hospital.

Recommendations made by the local Healthwatch included:

  • Make it clear to patients about the range of physical, emotional and financial support that might be available to them.
  • Provide clear information about healthy lifestyles and other ways to prevent further strokes.

New services for stroke patients will now be provided by the Stroke Association, incorporating the recommendations from Healthwatch County Durham, with the report being “influential” in their decision-making.

Thanks to Stroke patients in County Durham and local people have been able to have a voice and influence health and care services for the future that better meet their needs.

No.17 Improving the quality of care of musculoskeletal services in Central Bedfordshire

Mrs K and a number of other local people with issues with their muscles, bones and joints complained to Healthwatch Bedfordshire about the musculoskeletal (MSK) service offered in the local area. Patients found it difficult to contact the service about appointments and had concerns about the quality of care received.

Mrs K had waited two years with severe back problems that required treatment and input from the pain clinic with appointments being cancelled and administration errors meant that the primary problem was not being treated.



Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire asked other people who used the service for feedback about what they liked and what could be better.  They found that people with complex care needs were less satisfied with the service with some patients feeling confused at what care and support was available.

Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire recommended a number of changes to make people’s experiences better. These included an extended hours service and additional phone lines, as well as ensuring their website’s information was up-to-date. The musculoskeletal service has made changes in response to the recommendations and will be conducting a review in six months time to see how the improvements have helped make a difference.

Mrs K, you’ll be pleased to hear, was given the correct information ensure she received the care she  needed and managed to receive an earlier appointment thanks to sharing her experience with Healthwatch Central Bedfordshire.


‘Thank you, thank you; I should have come to you months ago’ - Mrs K

No.16 Young people in Blackburn with Darwen – sharing their views on mental health

Over 830 young people aged 8 to 25 spoke to Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen about their views and experiences on issues affecting their health and wellbeing.

Mental health was quickly deemed a priority by Healthwatch Blackburn With Darwen as a result of the feedback from young people. The local Healthwatch raised this with health and care partners including The Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service who agreed to make improvements through working with the children, young people, parents and carers who would be using the services to help shape future care.

Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen are also training young people to deliver workshops with them on traumatic childhood experiences in schools and youth groups.

Thanks to those that shared their views, more young people in Blackburn with Darwen will have an opportunity to speak out about their views, have a say on the support they need and play a role in changes made along the way.

Young people in Blackburn with Darwen

No.15 Changes to parking system stop people being overcharged at local hospital

Thanks to people speaking out about the issues with the parking system, appropriate measures are now in place to stop people being overcharged at a local hospital in North East Lincolnshire.

Visitors and patients had to queue for a long time to pay for their parking, often resulting in going over to the next pay threshold. Healthwatch North East Lincolnshire raised the issue with the hospital who then installed an additional car parking ticket machine.

When hospital visitors continued to contact the local Healthwatch about the issue it was clear it hadn’t been resolved. After raising the issue again, the hospital has made further changes to help improve the situation including moving one of the ticket machines and installing a fourth machine. 

Thanks to the patients and visitors who spoke to Healthwatch, parking at the hospital has been improved for all.

No.14 Camden residents - speaking up about communication difficulties to GPs

Local residents in Camden told Healthwatch that GP services where not properly supporting those with communication needs.

Healthwatch Camden decided to take action. As a result, a number of changes have been made to improve people’s experience of visiting the doctor.  For example in some practices:

  • Patients can now register using Large Print or Easy Read forms.
  • GPs now ask new patients to tell them about any communication support needs they may have
  • Staff are given Deaf awareness training to improve how they communicate with patients

Thanks to everyone who spoke to Healthwatch Camden about the problems they faced, practice care has now been changed for all.


No.13 Dr Knut – preventing teen suicides in Bristol

Following a series of suicides amongst local university students, Bristol GP Dr Knut Schroeder set about developing a new app to help young people dealing with mental health problems.

Putting young people at the heart of the project, he developed the app with feedback from those with experience of self-harm and attempted suicide and involved them in the testing to ensure it was focused on meeting their needs.


No. 12 Increasing uptake of cervical, breast and bowel screening programmes in Newcastle

In some areas of Newcastle, there is a low uptake of screening programmes that would help identify cervical, breast and bowel cancer.

Using focus groups, one-to-one interviews and surveys, Healthwatch Newcastle spoke to nearly 200 people to find out why people choose not to be screened and what would encourage them to take part.

People told Healthwatch Newcastle that they would like more information provided in community settings to help them make decisions and more flexible and accessible services.

Thanks to the 200 people who spoke to Healthwatch, work is being done with local services to make changes that would encourage more people to be screened.

No.11  Beth– Making sure NHS services are accessible 

When Beth, who has a learning disability was asked to fill out a complicated document at a local service, her mum got in touch with Healthwatch Oldham. Healthwatch was able to give advice and information about the Accessible Information Standard, which ensures that people with a disability are given information in a way they can understand.

After hearing about the problems Beth faced, Healthwatch Oldham checked other local services to see whether they were also checked whether services in the area were providing the right support and following legal requirements.

After sharing what they found with the local council, changes are being made to ensure NHS staff are trained to better understand people’s needs.

No. 10 George - Improving how partners are involved before, during and after birth

Thanks to George and the 18 other people who told Healthwatch Bucks about their experience of being involved during their partner’s pregnancy and when they gave birth, improvements are being made by the local NHS.

When George was separated from his partner when she was giving birth he found it really tough.

After sharing his experience with Healthwatch Bucks and the local NHS trust, changes have been made so that in the future birthing partners will be updated every 20 minutes to keep them involved and up-to-date with what’s happening.



No.9 Seven local residents in Islington - making sure people have access to support while waiting for an ADHD diagnosis

Waiting for a diagnosis of ADHD can take a long time, with many people waiting years for an assessment. Thanks to seven people in Islington sharing their views with Healthwatch, the local NHS is now helping people to access support while they wait for a diagnosis.

Just a few people shared their experiences, but it has led to changes that everyone who gets an ADHD referral stands to benefit from. There's a great demand for the service and it can take up to three years to get an assessment after being referred. Being able to access support during that time is going to make a huge difference.
— Emma Whitby, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Islington

No.8 People with Fibromyalgia in Leicestershire - Raising awareness of Fibromyalgia

People with Fibromyalgia told Healthwatch Leicestershire about their experiences of using local health and social care services. Healthwatch used this information to create a top tips poster about living with the condition. It included information and advice from finding an understanding GP to applying for benefits.

The poster was shared with over 28,000 people and professionals and circulated to over 158 GP practices.

Thanks to those people who shared their experiences, more doctors in Leicestershire are aware of the Fibromyalgia and the issues that people with the condition may face.

No.7 Maggie - Helping services learn from her experience of end of life care

Maggie decided to contact Healthwatch Cornwall to speak up about her experience as a wife and carer for her husband at the end of his life.

She told her Healthwatch about how her husband had received good care on the whole during the months before his death, but particularly wanted to highlight some concerns about his care in the final weeks and how she felt support for family members could also be improved.

With great courage, Maggie spoke at a conference for 100 people who plan and deliver end of life care in Cornwall so they could learn from her story.

you should be offered the option to be called when there is not very long to go, so that you have the choice of whether or not you want to be there with the person because that is then your choice. If they don't do that, the choice is taken away from you.
— What Maggie feels could be done better.
Maggie and John's story

No.6 North Tyneside care home residents - helping to make mealtimes better

Because 633 residents, their families and care staff shared their experiences of mealtimes in care homes, your local council and services were able to hear about what worked, what didn’t and how things could be improved in the future.

Since your Healthwatch North Tyneside shared their report ‘Making Mealtimes Matter’ about their views, the council have made changes to make sure:

  • People’s likes and dislikes about mealtimes are included in their individual care plans
  • People have the option to take meals in their own room
  • People are able to buy and consume drinks and snacks of their choice
  • Care homes make sure there are enough resources to make mealtimes positive.

No.5 Families of Nascot Lawn - Raising awareness of importance of respite services


No.4 Sandra - Improving the way services support people who are Deaf

No.3 Becky - Helping more young people get better mental health support


No.2 Tony  - Making it easier to choose a care home


No.2 Tony  - Making it easier to choose a care home

No.1 Errol - Encouraging men to get screened for prostate cancer


Do health and social care services know what you really think?

Share your ideas and experiences and help services hear what works, what doesn’t, and what you want from care in the future. 

Speak to your local Healthwatch