01278 264 405 or 0800 999 1286 (freephone) info@healthwatchsomerset.co.uk

A new report out today from Healthwatch Somerset, shows that people who receive care and support at home from the District Nursing Service, would like to see the introduction of weekend and evening visits, but many people are more cautious about the introduction of digital consultations.

The Somerset District Nursing Service (DNS) can be involved with caring for over 1,000 patients each day in their homes, helping them remain in their communities and out of hospital. As the older population in Somerset grows, so does demand for district nursing and community services; this is a key area of development for Somerset’s NHS and social care providers.

Healthwatch Somerset and the DNS want to make sure that patient and carer feedback is used to influence how the service is developed to meet the growing demand for quality care at home.

From February 2020 to April 2021, Healthwatch Somerset gathered feedback about the service from 175 patients, carers and family members, through an online survey and phone interviews. They asked people to share their views about how the service is currently delivered, about possible changes to service hours, and about the use of digital technology, for example, video consultations. Healthwatch Somerset presents several key findings and recommendations in its new report.

A very good service: 93.6% of respondents rated the DNS as ‘very good’, so maintaining and building on the current level of service should be at the heart of any changes.

Extending service hours: Increasing the hours of service, so that routine visits can take place during weekends and evenings where appropriate, would benefit those using the service – 79.2% of patients said they could manage a routine visit after 5pm on weekdays, and 91.9% said they could manage a visit at the weekend. Extended hours would also provide employment opportunities for people who have caring responsibilities during traditional working weekday working hours but who are available to work in the evenings and weekends.

Digital care: Any move to digital appointments would need to be sympathetic to those who are digitally excluded – 67 people indicated that they would be subject to digital exclusion, for example because they have no internet or device for accessing the internet.

Appointment time slots: The introduction of a time slot system for appointments should be considered; this would be especially useful for patients with memory loss or mental confusion.

Continuity of care: Improvements to continuity of care should be considered for long term service users and those with cognitive impairment, for example by providing a consistent nurse or group of nurses.

Healthwatch Somerset Acting Manager, Lucie Woodruff, said: “As our older population grows, there is greater demand on community services and the ‘out of hospital’ model of care, this includes district nursing which is highly valued by local people. We know that Somerset’s NHS and social care commissioners want to develop more joined up health and care services in the community, and we want to make sure that the services provided, now and in the future, meet the needs and expectations of Somerset residents. So, we asked people about their views and experiences of the DNS and we have shared our findings and recommendations to guide how the service is developed.”

Somerset NHS Foundation Trust Neighbourhood Service Lead, Gillian Cook RD, welcomed the report: “Somerset NHS Foundation Trust is about to commence a transformation process for the District Nursing Service in Somerset and our patients’ voice is at the centre of this work. This report containing feedback about our District Nursing Service from patients and carers across the county will be invaluable as we move through this transformation process, and it will positively influence our future service. We want to thank Healthwatch Somerset for carrying out this work; it has been an excellent example of collaborative working that will ultimately inform our future services.”

Read the full report to find out what people said about the DNS: The District Nursing Service: People’s experiences of using the service in Somerset

You can share your health and care experience and feedback with Healthwatch Somerset:
• Online: healthwatchsomerset.co.uk/talk-to-us/your-views-and-experiences/
• By phone: freephone 0800 999 1286 or 01278 264405
• By email: info@healthwatchsomerset.co.uk