New Healthwatch Somerset volunteer Stephen Sharples is urging people in Somerset to be more actively involved in the decisions around their health and wellbeing.

Stephen, from Langport, moved to the area last year and previously chaired a successful Patient Participation Group (PPG) in the West Midlands, as well as helping to set up a multi-practice PPG which promoted health and wellbeing in the community and put forward ideas to the local decision-making groups.

As a volunteer with the county’s independent health and care champion Healthwatch Somerset, Stephen hopes to encourage others to work with Healthwatch so that their voice is heard. The married father-of-two said: “Healthwatch is a brilliant idea, it’s there to help you share your experiences with those who make the decisions.

“I know people don’t like to complain but if the health services don’t hear about a problem, then nothing changes. When a complaint is made, it’s usually put right and then all those who go after you have a much better experience.

“Local people can help shape health and care services in Somerset by letting Healthwatch know what their concerns are, so that they can be collated and fed back to the local NHS management. I would urge people to have a go, whether that’s volunteering or sharing your views with Healthwatch – it’s not just about your own health matters, it’s for the people of Somerset!”

Stephen (pictured) plans to attend community events and help to man stands around Somerset to gather feedback from the public on local health and care services.

This feedback will then be collated by Healthwatch Somerset and the common themes are presented to the decision-making organisations in the county, who plan and pay for health and care services.

Healthwatch Somerset are currently looking for new volunteers to help them to champion the views of Somerset residents.

Julie Draper, Volunteer Officer at Healthwatch Somerset said: “Volunteers like Stephen are at the centre of everything we do, from talking to people about their experiences of local health and care services, to sitting on the board of directors.

“Whatever your background, we are keen to hear from you if you think you could fill one of these roles.  People can make a real difference to their communities and help to shape their local health and care services.”

All volunteers with Healthwatch Somerset go through a full training and personal development programme.  They are given a comprehensive volunteer handbook and welcome pack, as well as having access to an online volunteer portal with up to date policies and procedures.  Out of pocket expenses are also reimbursed.

To find out more about volunteering with Healthwatch Somerset call Julie on 01278 264405 or email info@healthwatchsomerset.co.uk or visit www.healthwatchsomerset.co.uk/volunteering

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