Healthwatch Camden report finds that people living with HIV in Camden experience a ‘ping-pong’ effect when seeking treatment

On 15 September Healthwatch Camden launched a report entitled ‘How well do services join up in Camden? – Experiences of local people living with HIV.’ We found that patients who are living with HIV in Camden experience a ‘ping pong effect.’ That is, they are bounced back and forth between specialist and non-specialist services, which can result in poor care and health outcomes.

See the report here.

Healthwatch Camden Director, Frances Hasler says: “A lack of consensus as to whether symptoms are HIV related can contribute to patients being passed from one service provider to another, in what we’ve termed the ‘ping-pong’ affect in our research. Patients are then left feeling unhappy with their treatment.

“Our research found that people over 40 are particularly affected by how well services join up because they often have complex health needs with multiple conditions, and are more likely to experience mental health issues. Participants spoke highly of specialist HIV services but had a more variable experience of general services. 

“Specialist HIV services and non-specialist services, including Camden’s GPs, should join up their services and communicate with each other so that people living with HIV can benefit from care that is integrated.”

Healthwatch Camden thinks that different funding streams for the commissioning of specialist HIV services and of primary care services provided by GPs should not be allowed to get in the way of  better links between the two.

Some research participants also reported prejudice, discriminatory treatment and stigmatisation when seeking treatment in primary and secondary health care settings.

One respondent said: “In one venue, I had to file a discrimination complaint twice because I felt that the behaviour of the junior doctor and nurse was prejudiced towards me.”

We used our statutory powers to make seven recommendations about the design and delivery of services to people living with HIV in Camden. Commissioners and service providers have responded positively and constructively. Camden and Islington Public Health, NHS England, and the Camden and Islington Mental Health Foundation Trust have all welcomed the recommendations.

Camden and Islington Public Health said: “This report by Healthwatch Camden is welcome and timely. It provides a helpful insight into some of the challenges for people living with HIV, particularly as they age.

“We will work with those in other services to help bring down the barriers described in this report.”

Healthwatch Camden hopes that the research results and recommendations will help to improve health and social care services for people living with HIV in Camden.

More about the research

The research focused on older people (40 years old and above) who are living with HIV because their needs are often complex and they are more likely than others to be living with multiple conditions. Therefore, they need to use a wide range of different services which span health and social care and which include specialist HIV services and other non-specialist services. As such, the experiences of this group can shed light on the wider question of how well different services join up.

The population living with HIV in Camden is growing older and this has implications for service design and delivery. (Terence Higgins Trust 2013.)

HIV prevalence among the population of Camden is higher than among the general population of London and of England. (Camden Council 2013.)