Healthwatch Somerset is looking forward to helping health and social care services develop and improve with the announcement of several new projects for the year ahead.

The new Healthwatch projects will address the impact of coronavirus and look into common issues raised by local people, while also reflecting national and local priorities in health and social care.  Projects will focus on the following broad themes (see below for more detail):

  • Accessing local health and care services during the coronavirus pandemic
  • Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
  • Access to Primary Care (such GP’s, pharmacy and dentistry)
  • Supported discharge process for patients with continuing health care needs (Pathway 3)
  • Accessing transport to health and social care services
  • Waiting times from GP referral to treatment

Each project will gather people’s views and experiences linked to a specific aspect of health and care provision.  The aim is to find out what works well for local people and what they think could be improved.  This public feedback will then be shared with those in charge of delivering health and care in Somerset with recommendations to help improve services for local people.

Judith Goodchild, Chair of the Healthwatch Somerset Local Board, explained why they have chosen to investigate these areas of Somerset’s health and social care provision: “Health and care services are more effective when they reflect and respond to the views and needs of local people.  Our new projects will investigate the impact of coronavirus along with common themes that we have identified from public feedback received during the previous year.  We have consulted widely to ensure that our work also feeds into national and local NHS and social care priorities.  This approach will ensure that we are able to influence positive change and make a real difference for local people.”

Healthwatch Somerset Manager, Hannah Gray, outlined how they will adapt and deliver their public engagement projects in the face of current social distancing restrictions: “We will launch our projects throughout the year, starting with our new online survey to find out how this virus outbreak may be changing the way people access local services, particularly if they rely on them for regular care: smartsurvey.co.uk/s/CoronavirusHWS/.

“Social distancing means we will need to be creative in how we reach people, but there are plenty of ways people can share their experiences with us including online surveys, via our website, social media and email, and over the phone.  When we announce each new project during the year, we will let people know how they can get involved, and we will work hard to reach out and listen.”

Healthwatch Somerset is the county’s independent health and care champion. It exists to make sure that local people’s views are heard by those in charge of health and care social care and used to help make services better.  It also provides information and advice to help people find out about local services and support.

If you want to know more about Healthwatch Somerset’s work you can sign up to receive a monthly ebulletin, follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, and visit the website: healthwatchsomerset.co.uk/.
You can contact Healthwatch Somerset by phone: 01278 264405 or email: info@healthwatchsomerset.co.uk.

Healthwatch Somerset priorities April 2020-March 2021

Accessing local health and care services during the coronavirus pandemic

In April, Healthwatch Somerset launched a new public feedback project to find out how coronavirus is affecting people’s experience of local health and care services.  People are sharing their stories about how services are adapting, to highlight what is working well and where things need to be improved.  This information will be shared with those providing services in Somerset to help them understand how to adapt and deliver effective care during such challenging times.  More information: smartsurvey.co.uk/s/CoronavirusHWS/.

Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

This project will build on Healthwatch Somerset’s ongoing review of children and young people’s mental health services.  Feedback will be sought from young people through a new Healthwatch Somerset ‘Young Listeners’ project.  Young people from across Somerset will be recruited as volunteer young listeners to engage with other children and young people so that their voices are involved in shaping local services.

Access to Primary Care

Access to primary care is one of the most common themes of public feedback received by Healthwatch Somerset.  Primary care refers to the first place people go to when they need health advice or treatment for symptoms that are new or for concerns about physical or mental health.  This includes, for example, GP surgeries, pharmacies, opticians, and community care services such as musculoskeletal clinics.  People using primary care have a broad and varied range of access and care needs, for example, disabled access, support for carers, access for older people and homeless people.

This year-long research and engagement project will build on previous work looking at access to primary care through GP surgeries.  The new project will look in more depth at local provision to identity areas of good practice and at primary care access in care settings.  The project is also an opportunity to work with Primary Care Networks in Somerset and the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group to further explore the development of the wider networks.  The nature and timing of this project will be reviewed to ensure it reflects the impact of coronavirus on how primary care is delivered.

Supported discharge for patients with continuing health care needs (Pathway 3)

This project will look at the overall experience for patients who are discharged from hospital care into care homes due to their continuing health care needs.  The aim is to evaluate the effectiveness of the supported discharge process to highlight areas of good practice.  The impact on patient’s social needs when they return home will also be considered.  Project findings will be shared with local providers, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, Somerset County Council and GP practices to support the development of community services in the county.

Accessing transport to health and social care services

This research and engagement project aims to provide an overview of how transport services in Somerset impact on access to health and care in the county.  Research will be carried out to identify gaps in provision, and public feedback will be sought through focused engagement work and other projects undertaken during the year.

Waiting time from referral to treatment

This is one of the most common areas of feedback to Healthwatch Somerset.  The aim of the project would be to understand and contrast the experience for patients who wait long periods between referral and treatment, with those who are seen within the NHS standards waiting time of 18 weeks.  Healthwatch Somerset is working closely with Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group to capture patient feedback on this theme with a view to developing this project in the future.