Healthwatch speak to people from every part of their community to about what they think of services so that those in charge can learn from people’s experiences.
Our award for championing diversity and inclusion celebrates the work Healthwatch across the country do to make health and social care better for people from diverse communities.
Tackling barriers to healthcare with people with a learning disability
Healthwatch Bexley worked with local organisations to help make going to the GP a better experience for people with a learning disability.
They trained 15 volunteers with a learning disability to visit all 26 GP services in the borough and speak to patients about their experiences.
Over 450 people shared their views, which included concerns about issues such as a lack of disability awareness amongst staff, and information provided in formats people find difficult to understand.
As a result, there is now a GP dedicated to advising GP practices in the area about learning disabilities, and three healthcare professionals responsible for increasing the number of people with learning disability having their annual health check.
In addition, several GP services have taken steps to make their staff more learning disability aware to help reduce the barriers people with learning disabilities face.
Helping vulnerable people get the support they need
Healthwatch East Sussex
Healthwatch East Sussex helped vulnerable residents living in emergency and temporary accommodation in Newhaven to get better health and social care support after hearing about the problems they were having.
Many residents struggled with alcohol, substance abuse and mental health issues and were long-term users of a complex mix of health and social care services in addition to charity and community support services.
Working with Brighton and Hove City Council, Healthwatch East Sussex spoke to residents to find out what needed to change.
Residents told Healthwatch that they struggled to access the support they needed, and that they had issues building trust and relationships with people working for formal agencies. Some people also found that the temporary accommodation they’d been given to meet their need for emergency housing made them feel isolated and caused their mental health to deteriorate, increasing their need for more complex support.
Thanks to this work, several changes have been made to ensure people get the support they need including:
- Increased investment in more Welfare Support Officers and improved response times for residents when they are in crisis
- Access to basic services that were previously absent, such as laundry facilities and the allocation of bedding on arrival.
- A greater shared understanding of the problems faced by people living in temporary accommodation across local authority, health and care service borders, enabling services to work together in an integrated way.
Making it easier for people to get the support they need to attend a hospital appointment
Going to the hospital for an appointment can be a challenging and worrying experience, especially if you have communication needs. Healthwatch Kent worked with East Kent Mencap, Kent Association for the Blind, and Alzheimer’s and Dementia Support services to find out more about what support is available for people who need extra help.
They identified some of the problems people were facing and the following changes they recommended are now in place:
- Staff training in how to support patients who may need additional support to attend appointments
- An audit of hearing loops in two hospitals and training for staff on how to use them
- Changes to how people’s communications needs are recorded, how appointment letters are written, and the inclusion of information about how to get information in alternative formats
- The development of a new system to provide patients with a British Sign Language interpreter in East Kent Hospitals
- Better signage to help people find their way around hospital
- An email address for Deaf patients of East Kent Hospitals so they have a way of getting in touch
Helping Gypsy Traveller women access better care and provide community support
Healthwatch held an event attended by people responsible for commissioning and running health and social care services, as well as other local stakeholders, members of the public and a group of Gypsy Travellers.
This event allowed everyone to find out more about the issues this community was facing and what could make their experience better, including better information about the services available and the importance of health check-ups.
Healthwatch helped bring about several changes, including mental health first aid awareness training, sexual health awareness training and the facilitation of links between the Lincolnshire Traveller Initiative Well Woman Groups and local services specialising in sexual health team, immunisation and dentistry.
Several women from the Gypsy Traveller community have also been shown by professionals how to support their peers across Lincolnshire, meaning more women and their families from the traveller community will be able to get the care they need when they need it.
Because of this work, many women received their first ever cervical and breast screening and are more aware of where they can go for support.
In addition, a health directory is being developed by the Healthwatch that will be going into every home on every traveller site in Lincolnshire, ensuring that as many people from the traveller community as possible are aware of the services available to them.
Improving the wellbeing and care of the Deaf community
Deaf people in Wolverhampton felt that they’d been given an opportunity to share their views with Healthwatch about health and social care, but that little was being done by services to make things better.
Healthwatch brought together the Clinical Commissioning Group, local council, urgent care providers and NHS trust to create a plan of action and hold an event to share with the community the changes being made as a result of their feedback.
The changes included:
- The development of a card people can show when visiting health and care services to highlight their need for additional help communicating, to help reduce anxiety over booking an appointment and asking for an interpreter.
- Several facilitated health forums to enable Deaf people to become more aware of health issues, such as dementia, mental health, cancer and diabetes.
- Discussions on how interpreter services are commissioned across Wolverhampton to help improve consistency and quality.
As a result, the Deaf community felt their views had not only been shared, but that they were being taken seriously and acted upon to help improve care for themselves and others.