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From concerned mums to passionate pensioners, thousands of ordinary people all across the country are sharing their experiences to help hard pressed hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes find ways to improve.
In the last year the Healthwatch network has heard from 297,290 people specifically sharing their story so that the NHS and council run care services can learn, survive and thrive in difficult times.
But this is just the beginning, with new research suggesting 3 out of 4 (76%) adults in England would be interested in sharing their feedback in order to improve health and social care services if given the opportunity.
Reports from across the Healthwatch network also suggest that the value of listening to patient feedback is starting to gain real traction within the NHS with two thirds of the 148 local Healthwatch reporting that health care providers are now actively seeking out information from them about how patients are experiencing care.
The Healthwatch network exists to make it easy for people to give feedback about health and care services, requiring no more than a short telephone call, email or even a Tweet.
Healthwatch also help those who want to go one step further and work in partnership with local health and care providers to come up with ideas together on how services should change, and then put these plans into action. For example:
Rosetta West, a 96 year old resident of Melton Court sheltered housing in Poole, waited for over four hours for an ambulance after a fall, during which time she remained in pain on the floor as safety protocols would not allow staff to lift her. Rosetta got in touch with Healthwatch Dorset who helped her to work with her duty manager, Fiona Smith, to talk about her experience with local commissioners and MPs. Rosetta's experience was discussed in Parliament and inspired the local ambulance service to design a new training and development programme for sheltered housing staff across the county in how to lift people after an incident – helping to reduce pressures on ambulance call outs and ensure residents can be looked after in relative comfort should they fall.
George Rook, a 63 year old man from Shropshire, who had to fight to be diagnosed with early onset dementia back in 2013, has been working with local doctors for four years now to help improve the way they identify and support people with early symptoms of the disease. Working with his local Healthwatch he has helped local GP surgeries to become ‘dementia friendly’, set up a programme to recruit local dementia champions to help people through their diagnosis and set up two dementia cafes to bring people together.
Rebecca Loo, a mum from Staffordshire successfully campaigned for health commissioners to redesign the local equipment ordering services when her son’s long wait for a foot brace meant he had to have avoidable surgery – wasting precious money and resources and causing her son needless additional pain and discomfort. Working with her local Healthwatch, Rebecca has now been able to spread this approach around the country helping to improve services for many more patients than just her son. This way of working has been identified by NHS England as having the potential to save the NHS up to £22 million.
In recognition of these dedicated individuals and the many thousands more who have contributed over the last year,we are launching a new campaign, entitled #ItStartsWithYou, to highlight the difference people can make by sharing their experiences and to encourage more people to come forward.
A week of celebration will culminate in the Healthwatch Network Annual Conference where hundreds of volunteers and leaders from across the Healthwatch network will be sharing ideas about how to further boost public engagement in improving health and social care.
Our National Director, Imelda Redmond, said:
"Giving doctors and nurses or care home staff a box of chocolates to say thank you is a lovely gesture but sharing feedback about the experience with those in charge is far more powerful. Not only does it help to boost the morale of under pressure staff but it can help the whole health and care sector understand what it is getting right and where things need to improve.
"Healthwatch make it easy for people to share their experiences, both good and bad, and ensures that from individual doctors' surgeries to the corridors of central government, those in charge of planning and delivering services hear what people have to say.
"It’s heartening to see a growing culture of people willing to share their story and incredibly important that the NHS is also increasingly keen to find out what people are feeding back. But to unleash the full potential we need people to keep sharing their experiences with us, so I urge everyone to speak-up and help us make the changes we all want to see.”
Help make health and care better for your community. Share your views with Healthwatch. It starts with you.