Our annual report 2020-21

Our nation’s health faces enormous challenges. Find out in our Annual Report to Parliament how your feedback has helped NHS and social care services improve care and our plans for the future.
Healthwatch Annual Report Front Cover

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In 2020-21, we supported more than two million people to have their say on care and get the right advice. Here are just some of the ways we made a difference. 

How we made a difference this year

Acting on feedback: Patient transport

If you’re physically unable to travel, can’t afford transport, or live in a rural area, getting to a hospital appointment can feel impossible. Thousands of people experience these barriers every day, with some missing out on vital care like chemotherapy and dialysis.

Thanks to people sharing their experiences, we have helped the NHS identify issues with patient transport services and pushed for improvements.

I have arthritis in my knees and have to wear special leg braces. Amazingly, I don’t qualify for hospital transport. I’ve been forced to rely on my savings and am spending £1,000 a year on transport to the hospital.
— Hospital patient

The NHS is working on proposals to make it clearer who can get support travelling to the hospital and has committed to using better technology to improve the coordination and communication of transport. 

Ten differences we've made

  1. From running advice lines to delivering medicines, our 3,700 volunteers helped combat COVID-19 across England.
  2. Thanks to your feedback, we quickly alerted regulators about care homes using ‘Do not attempt to resuscitate’ forms without consent.
  3. Fifty-four thousand people came forward in response to our campaign, which aimed to get the public talking about health and care issues they faced so services could be alerted.
  4. With online appointments becoming the norm, we use your stories to develop advice that helps more professionals and patients get the most out of digital consultations.
  5. When the public was worried about how the NHS would use their GP data, we helped prevent issues by advising the NHS to be more transparent and give people more time to opt-out.
  6. Teaming up with the British Red Cross, we called for improvements to make leaving the hospital safer during the pandemic. The harrowing stories that people shared with us about being discharged with little or no support led to new Government guidance to ensure this does not happen again.
  7. We urged the Government to act after reporting a 452% increase in people struggling to see an NHS dentist. Although reform takes time, the Government asked dental practices to maintain accurate information online in response to our recommendations.
  8. With the COVID-19 vaccination programme starting, we talked to different communities to understand their concerns and the steps the NHS can take to improve people's confidence in public health communications.
  9. Within weeks of the launch of NHS 111 First, which allowed people to book A&E appointments, we provided rapid feedback to help identify teething issues and the need for greater public awareness.
  10. When the public struggled to see their GP face-to-face, we asked the NHS to confirm this right for all patients.

What next?

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown long-standing health inequalities into stark relief. With NHS and social care staff exhausted by the crisis and facing a backlog of care, the unequal health outcomes exposed by the pandemic are at risk of becoming worse.

Our Chair, Sir Robert Francis QC,  sets out how we will to help address the health and care challenges our nation faces in our report.

We have shown that harnessing public feedback, often in real-time,  alerts decision-makers to problems quickly, helps them understand what’s working and ultimately leads to better.
— Sir Robert Francis QC

Nationally and locally, Healthwatch will use the experiences you share to help services understand who cannot access help, where people’s journey between services needs fixing and where support is working.

With the NHS and social care system on the verge of major reform through the introduction of Integrated Care Systems, we will also work hard to make sure people’s views, especially those who are not being heard, are hard-wired into the planning and running of services.


Read the full report

Download our annual report 'Championing what matters to you'. 

The report is also available in Easy Read and Large Print. 

If you need this report in a different format, please email enquiries@healthwatch.co.uk or call 030000 68 3000.

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