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

In a new report out today from Healthwatch Somerset, young people are calling on the county’s health and social care services to improve how they communicate – with each other and with young people – to improve how they care.

65 young people have told Healthwatch Somerset’s Young Listeners about their experiences of using health and social care services. They talked about the barriers and challenges they face when seeking support, and the changes they want to see to make services work better for young people.

Key themes were identified and, in response, the Young Listeners have made recommendations for how Somerset’s health and care services can develop to address young people’s needs and concerns. They have shared their findings and recommendations with Somerset’s Health and Wellbeing Board, Somerset County Council, and Somerset’s NHS Clinical Commissioning Group.

Key themes

Lack of communication between services: 41% of young people said they had to repeat their symptoms and story to each service they used, even if they had been referred by their GP or another service. They found this frustrating, and for some young people with mental health issues, it was distressing.

Poor communication with young people: This was one of the most common issues raised including by those moving from children to adult care services. Young people often felt forgotten, not listened to, and not involved in decisions about their care, leading to distrust of health and care services.

“After a GP laughed at me, it took me a long time to recover and feel confident in going to healthcare staff with a problem.”
“No emails or calls, I felt left alone.”
“I almost gave up.”
“It felt like being a minor made me not listened to.”

Not enough information about health and care services in schools, colleges, and universities: Over half of the young people were concerned that they could not find the information they needed in school or college about health and care and the services available.

“At school we don’t really learn new things about health, they just go over the same thing.”
“They had no information to provide.”
“I don’t think awareness is spread around.”

Services are not promoted in ways that are appropriate, accessible, or inclusive of young people: Many young people are unaware of the health and social care services that are available. A common concern was that services are not promoted using the online channels that young people increasingly use, which makes it difficult for them to find information and answers.

“When I found the services they offered brilliant support, it was just a matter of finding the support.”

Recommendations for change and improvement

  • More training for all school staff around mental health and wellbeing awareness, and the support that is available locally, so that they can signpost young people to the correct services.
  • Health and social care services should re-evaluate how they communicate with each other and their patients, to reduce confusion and feelings of abandonment.
  • Services that support young people should promote themselves in ways that are appropriate and accessible for young people.
  • Schools and services should promote the need to ask questions and reduce stigma around health and social care issues, encouraging young people to seek information and answers from professionals.
  • Health and social care services should involve young people more regularly in decision making processes, as well as in planning for projects concerning young people.

In the report, the Young Listeners suggest some simple and practical actions and solutions to help services achieve these improvements.

Young Listeners project summary

Between January and July 2021, Healthwatch Somerset recruited and trained a group of nine volunteer Young Listeners from across Somerset, aged 12 to 18. The Young Listeners designed and delivered a peer-to-peer engagement project to find out what it is like to be a young person using health and social care services in Somerset. In August and September 2021, they gathered feedback from 65 young people via face-to-face and online meetings and events, and an online survey.

Read the report

Read the report to find out more about young people health and care experiences and why they are asking for change: Young Listeners Project – Sharing young people’s feedback to improve the health and social care services they use.

Healthwatch Somerset Manager, Gill Keniston-Goble said: “We know that services improve when they listen to the people they care for and adapt to meet their needs. We also know that children and young people often feel ignored or don’t feel supported in a way that suits them. With the help of our fantastic Young Listeners, we have been able to give young people in Somerset the opportunity to share their stories and their views to influence change and improvement in young people’s health and social care services. Thanks to all the young people who took part and to our Young Listeners for delivering such an inspiring and positive project in a year that was so challenging and limiting in so many ways due Covid-19. We will now work with services to make sure that your feedback is heard and used to make care better for young people.”

Fiona Phur, Partnership Business Manager at Somerset County Council said: “Young people’s voices should be at the centre of all our decision making and the findings from this project are powerful and give direction to future service planning. Well done to Healthwatch Somerset and the young people and everyone who supported them.”

Becky Applewood, Deputy Director for Women’s and Children’s Health, NHS Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group said: “The insight from this report shows just how important it is to ensure children and young people are at the centre of the work we do and that we really listen to their experiences and observations. Our services need to properly meet the needs of children and young people, not the organisations, and this can only be achieved by working with and listening to them. The report also shows how, when we deliver any of our health services, we have to think about the child or young person holistically, considering both their mental and physical health so we achieve the best outcome for them. It is really important that we join up our health and care services so that children and young people in Somerset are able to easily access what they need; making sure that early help is available before things worsen.”

You can share your feedback about any aspect of Somerset’s health and social care services with Healthwatch Somerset:
• online at healthwatchsomerset.co.uk/talk-to-us/your-views-and-experiences/
• call Freephone 0800 999 1286
• email info@healthwatchsomerset.co.uk