Summary of report content
This report was undertaken after Healthwatch Rotherham was approached by Rotherham Clinical Commissioning Group in July to find out how Rotherham residents found the three lockdowns, how they are adjusting to the “new normal” and how they accessed healthcare services during the pandemic.
A series of polls on Facebook and Twitter in August 2021 were conducted asking people various questions on lockdown and accessing services. This reached thousands of people and gathered hundreds of responses. Three surveys were then created and distributed during August and September 2021. The ‘lockdown’ survey generated 89 responses, the ‘new normal’ survey generated 40 responses and the ‘accessing services’ survey generated 47 responses. Later, an additional 14 responses were recorded through interviews in August and September 2021 from participants who had agreed to give some additional information following the surveys.
The findings were varied, and it was clear that some people saw lockdown in a positive way, allowing them to reconnect with family and friends and focus on self-care and wellbeing. However, others found the lockdowns incredibly isolating, they struggled to access healthcare services and suffered with poor mental health due to a number of reasons including increased anxiety, dealing with bereavement and loneliness. Many felt apprehensive about restrictions lifting, were worried about the unknown and the uncertainty of the future. Initially when asked in August, the majority of people were still opting to wear face coverings. This question was revisited this question in September and, whilst the majority were still opting to wear face coverings, this figure had decreased. For those who accessed healthcare services during the pandemic, many of them found that it was difficult to access GP appointments, with the telephone appointment service often not able to cope with demand. Many respondents favoured a face-to-face or video appointment and feel this would have been more appropriate for their needs. Respondents felt that their option to choose what type of appointment they received had been removed and it is something they would like to see reinstated. Participants highlighted accessibility issues, particularly the lack of information available in Easy Read format and for those without internet. For those with internet access, online services were praised in Rotherham for keeping patients fully informed of the ever-changing situation during the pandemic. Additionally, the Rotherham Health App was criticised for being hard to use, resulting in patients needing to contact the GP via telephone to make an appointment, something they were trying to avoid due to it being time consuming. It has been recommended that patients should be offered a choice of appointment type, more appointment flexibility around timing to allow those who work long hours to access medical appointments outside of traditional working hours, improvements should be made in accessibility for patients and that staff levels and training should be optimised. It is hoped that these recommendations will be reviewed and comments taken on board by services to improve the patient experience in the future.