Summary of report content
Healthwatch Sandwell wanted to find out how well patients had adjusted to the changes in primary care services caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and what challenges may have arisen. They gathered information via a survey and focus groups and gathered information from 209 people.
Overall patients have been happy or satisfied with the services they have received within primary care. Many have adjusted well to using digital technology and state some benefits. The feedback on patient experiences provides some useful insight that could help inform continued development of digital technology within primary care services.
However, the Healthwatch Sandwell survey results also showed that 44% of the public said they found digital technology difficult to use and over 30% had challenges with accessing equipment or internet data supply.
Focus Groups were held as part of the project to explore in more detail the issues and barriers and how they might be able to be addressed. The Focus Groups included people over 65 years old, people with sensory and learning disabilities, people from minority ethnic communities with language barriers and “digital poverty”.
The main findings, reflected in the report recommendations, are that accessible communication options, choice and reasonable adjustments need to be considered in developing up digital services. Covid-19 has impacted and created pressures and priorities for primary care services such as services for clinically vulnerable patients, who have been shielding, and the Covid-19 vaccination rollout. Therefore, the project focused on the patient experience side of using digital technology in services at this stage. Healthwatch Sandwell would like to work with the Primary Care Networks (PCNs) and commissioners at an appropriate stage and consider how the outputs of this report might help inform and develop services.