Hundreds of people in Somerset have shared their views on how to improve NHS health services in the county.

Quicker and easier access to GPs; active involvement in decisions about their own health; earlier referral to specialist care and access to more help closer to home, were the top four things people in Somerset would like to see improved.

Their views were shared as part of Healthwatch Somerset’s What Would You Do? campaign and the findings are revealed in a report published today.

More than 260 residents, patients and their families took part in What Would You do? activities, which launched in March to encourage people in the county to share their views about how extra money from the Government should be spent on local NHS services.

The public were asked to give their views about how local services could improve, and to share ideas about the NHS can help people live healthier lives and take more control of their care.

The report also reveals people would like:

  • Better data sharing between NHS organisations both within the county and externally (as many people go out of county to access care and treatment).
  • Better use of, and more support from the system for existing community resources such as, volunteers and village agents and more affordable homecare so that people can stay in their own homes for longer.
  • For hospitals to better consider the needs of those with disabilities.
  • Better support for those with mental health issues and more non-statutory options to help maintain wellbeing such as, exercise and cookery classes.
  • More specialist community-based support and advice for those with long-term conditions.
  • More community transport options to help those people in the more rural areas, to get to GP and hospital appointments.
  • More support and assistance for unpaid carers and in particular those supporting someone at the end of their life.
  • More free places to exercise such as, swimming pools and gyms and better, high quality information around diet as well as easier access to healthy and affordable foods.
  • Better infrastructure such as, cycle paths and better street lighting to help people exercise and stay healthy more safely.

Emily Taylor, Manager at Healthwatch Somerset said: “The Government is investing an additional £20 billion a year in the NHS as part of the NHS Long Term Plan.  We were asked to help find out what local people thought was the best way for the NHS in Somerset to invest in the right services as part of this plan.

“It was wonderful to listen to so many people keen to make a difference in our local NHS. These views are all in the report and we will now monitor how the local NHS responds.”

Local man Steve Sharples, who has been battling cancer for over 50 years, shared his views about local NHS services.  He told us: “None of my treatment for cancer could be improved, neither surgery or care or hospital.  This was excellent!

“However, looking at how the NHS Long Term Plan can be implemented locally, I would like to see out of hospital care improved.  I think that in many cases if the patient has had an operation or his condition is such that they can be treated and cared for at home, it can improve the healing rate to be back home as soon as possible.

“Health services should ask patients what they want and if possible, give it to them.  For example, my brother recently died from cancer and in his final days, he requested to die at home.

“This was arranged, and a bed and the other things were delivered to his home and set up for him.  A few days later he died as he wished at home with his children around him.”

Patrick Flaherty, Senior Responsible Officer for the Somerset STP, commented: “The NHS in Somerset and Somerset County Council are committed to hearing the voice of Somerset residents as we plan our future services.  I am very grateful to our friends at Healthwatch Somerset for sharing this piece of work with us.

“Our goal has to be to support residents to live healthier, for longer, and wherever possible to care for people at home, in their community; and to avoiding people falling in to medical or health related crisis.  The findings of the What would you do? campaign are fascinating and will be used to help design services and we commit to working with Healthwatch and our residents further as our plans evolve.”

The report, NHS Long Term Plan: The views of Somerset residents, will be shared with the local NHS and can be viewed here: healthwatchsomerset.co.uk/reports-publications/