Summary of report content
During March – June 2020, Healthwatch Harrow engaged with local people about their experiences through the Coronavirus pandemic. They engaged with 475 people via two surveys and general engagement.
Concerns about social distancing and a ‘second wave’ are widespread. The shielding system has caused much confusion – for patients and services.
Large numbers of people have avoided services, for various reasons. Those with cancelled appointments have received minimal or no information. There were mixed views on levels of information and support from GP services
Care home/other looked after residents say personal freedoms are restricted. A sizeable minority say information is not accessible to them.
Many people experience a better work-life balance, thanks to home working. Those with activities and routines are more resilient than those without. Household relationships are more likely to become strained. Parents and carers are finding the additional responsibilities to be difficult. People with existing mental health conditions are more likely to be impacted.
Social isolation is on an unprecedented scale, with many completely alone. Many enjoy the reduced pollution and noise, and greater bio-diversity. Those with gardens are much more able to cope, than those without. Many have lost jobs, with the self-employed particularly impacted.
There were 14 recommendations about better information about GP appointments, the need for support and information to people whose appointments are cancelled, the need for flexibility on remote appointments to avoid digital exclusion; the need for information to patients that appointments are safe; the need for alternative transport to appointments; the need for testing of care home residents; better record keeping on shielding; the need for Covid-secure workplaces and environment; the need for organisations to work together to tackle social isolation; the need for accessible information in a variety of formats; employers to offer flexibility and choice on home working, where possible and appropriate, the need to increase social prescribing to reach more residents and reduce isolation, and services, GPs in particular, to identify those with a known mental health condition and check on welfare.