Stories of change - number 18 #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. 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 Fibriomyalgia 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.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