When you have a question about the health and social care services available near you, where do you go? Healthwatch is here to point you in the right direction.
Last year, 707,816 people got in touch with Healthwatch online or in person to ask about local care.
Every year the Healthwatch Network Awards celebrate the difference Healthwatch across the country are making to their communities. Read about how the six nominees for our ‘Giving people the advice and information they need’ have helped local people find the support they need.
Healthwatch in Blackburn with Darwn, Blackpool , Cumbria and Lancashire helps more women with learning disabilities get lifesaving screenings
Women with learning disabilities are less likely to take up lifesaving screening opportunities for cervical and breast cancer, because of a lack of understanding, embarrassment or fear.
Healthwatch Lancashire, Blackpool, Cumbria and Blackburn with Darwen spoke to 132 women with learning disabilities, their families and carers to find out more about what was standing in the way of them accessing these screenings.
Based on what they heard, they created ‘Me and my lady bits’ a range of resources for professionals and the public, which highlighted why it’s important to be screened, what to expect and ways to reduce anxiety.
The guides have already encouraged more women to go for regular screenings, and to make informed choices about their health.
Healthwatch Devon provides advice and information across 8,000 miles
It can be especially difficult for people living in rural areas to get information about health and social care services. 1.1 million people live in rural Devon, so Healthwatch Devon decided to team up with Citizen’s Advice to help as many people as possible get guidance on where to go for support.
Together the two organisations, through their team of Healthwatch champions, have answered over 2,000 health and social care questions at 30 locations, including GP surgeries, village halls and community centres.
Thanks to this initiative there has already been a 23% increase in the number of people accessing support, and the local council and services are using people’s questions and feedback to make wider improvements.
The scheme has also had a significant impact on people’s lives. For example, Liz has a mental health condition and after getting help making a complaint was awarded an extra £100 per week in benefits. She’s using the extra money for creative therapy sessions, which are making a big difference to her wellbeing.
Healthwatch Lewisham encourages more GPs to provide clear information about making a complaint
It’s vital that services use complaints to learn from people’s experiences, but they don’t all have consistent ways of finding out what people think.
Healthwatch Lewisham wanted to see how simple it is for local people to make a complaint about a GP practice. They found that in many cases it was unclear how people could raise their concerns about a negative experience, and that in others people were directed to speak to receptionists, which some found off-putting.
To help make sure more people feel empowered to complain about poor care, Healthwatch Lewisham created a template for services to use. The template enables local GP practices to provide more detailed, user-friendly information on their websites, to support residents if they want to make a complaint or provide feedback.
Several GP practices have used the template to update their websites, which has empowered more people to find the information they need. This has also been taken up by a GP Federation, as a standard model of practice in the area, supporting even more people to share their feedback.
Healthwatch Liverpool helps thousands of students find support
Healthwatch Liverpool knows that people like to access information in different ways, so it has a range of schemes to help people find what they need to know about health and social care services. From its online directory about local services, which has over 650,000 views annually, to its straightforward advice about how to make a complaint, there’s a route to suit every need.
There’s a large student population in Liverpool and young people leaving home for the first time don’t always know where to turn for help. To tackle this, Healthwatch gave over 1,000 students the opportunity to speak to them about issues like meningitis, mental wellbeing and sexual health, and where to go for support, during Fresher’s Week.
As Liverpool also hosts many international students from China, Healthwatch distributes welcome cards with important health and wellbeing messages translated into Chinese.
By listening to students, Healthwatch has been able to help local services provide better support and helped address issues such as suicide prevention and student mental health.
Healthwatch Wirral gives a helping hand to healthcare professionals
When a member of the public asks their GP or pharmacist for information about local services, health professionals need a quick way to find the answer. After spotting this need, Healthwatch Wirral created an online directory called Infobank, available to everyone 24/7, full of information about local services.
Public feedback highlighted that not all health and social care professionals were aware of the wide variety of community support available. In particular, GP surgeries were keen to train reception and administrative staff to feel more empowered giving people advice and information about local services.
Healthwatch Wirral developed an accredited training course, in partnership with a GP Federation, which covered 29 surgeries and over 200,000 patients in the area. The training explained the value of good signposting and has already given more than 200 staff the confidence to answer people’s questions.
Feedback about the training and online directory has been positive. For example, a GP receptionist who undertook the training said she was better able to support a mum who was worried about her child’s ADHD diagnosis. As the receptionist could signpost the mum to Infobank, she was able to find a support group for parents to discuss concerns.
Healthwatch Wirral continues to provide training in the area and works with local organisations to ensure that information on Infobank is up-to-date.
Healthwatch Hillingdon supports people with back pain
Many people rely on NHS-delivered treatments to help alleviate back pain. When the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) published new guidance about lower back pain, the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) decided to withdraw acupuncture support, leaving people without the treatment they needed.
Healthwatch Hillingdon had encouraged those in charge to carry out engagement work and provide much needed information and advice about what to expect. However, the people affected told Healthwatch that they were not involved in changes to their treatment, and only received a letter saying care would stop. They weren’t given any information about alternative ways to manage their back pain either.
Healthwatch Hillingdon gave these patients an opportunity to discuss their concerns, answered questions, and provided advice about what to do going forward.
When Healthwatch checked in with those affected a month later, it found that things hadn’t improved for everyone. Based on people’s feedback, Healthwatch Hillingdon made several recommendations about the way those who run services should manage changes to care.
Thanks to people speaking up, the CCG and local hospital trust have now agreed to make sure patients and their families are involved in changes to future care.