My first 7 days with local Healthwatch
We ask Emilia, Healthwatch Dorset's new engagement officer about her first seven days in the job.
What inspired you to join local Healthwatch?
Before I joined Healthwatch I worked in marketing for the NHS and was involved with a few projects where I engaged young people and listened to their views on mental health. I did a lot of face to face work and really enjoyed helping young people to try and make a difference.
I knew that Healthwatch was an organisation that worked with the public, listening to their concerns and helping them improve the NHS.
When I saw that Healthwatch Dorset was advertising for a children and young people's engagement officer I felt it was a perfect match.
What has your first week involved?
I was invited by Healthwatch England to attend the National Children and Adult Services Conference 2015. It was huge and attracts councillors, directors, senior officers, policy makers and senior managers from across England.
I really enjoyed listening to the presentations. There was slide after slide information on mental health and how it affects young people and our health system.
I found out where are over a million young people under the age of 18 who have a mental health condition. It costs £84,000 to support one child with a mild mental health problem for a life time and £250,000 for one child with severe mental health problems.
These figures are astonishing but the Healthwatch Dorset presentation with the Chatterboxes, a group of young people with disabilities, was the most powerful.
It reminded me that it’s important to think about the people behind the numbers, and ensure that they are considered as individuals, each with their own specific needs..
The title of the event was ‘Making a difference to children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing’ and in order to make a difference we should be listening to the individuals who really matter.
What would you say to someone who was interested in getting involved with Healthwatch?
It is a fantastic organisation that empowers people to make a difference.
The stories that I've heard about healthcare and social services really vary. Some are fantastic and really make you proud to have the NHS. The amount of selflessness it takes to work long hours saving lives is really inspiring and care services don't get enough credit for all the brilliant work they do.
But other stories are truly horrendous, and they are the ones that can heavily influence people’s opinions. It's Healthwatch's job to take the positive and negative experiences and change care services. We are an independent organisation that holds the NHS and social services accountable, we have the strength to change them but we can't do that without the help of the public.
If you've been inspired by Emilia's story, get in touch with your local Healthwatch and see what opportunities are available.