Message from Healthwatch Camden Director – Frances Hasler

I’ve been spending time recently in the new St Pancras and Somers Town Living Centre, which is just down the road from our offices in Ossulston Street. It’s great to see a project that has been talked about and thought about for so long actually get going. Our contribution is to be part of the signposting service there, and we’re really pleased to be working in partnership with Voluntary Action Camden to support the development of the signposting service.

Like any new service, there is a mass of practical stuff to sort. It has taken time to get all the equipment that is needed, and like any new service, people working there have to learn how to get along together. We all come from different organisations, we’re ‘hot desking’ and using space flexibly – no one has their own special space in the centre. Instead, we help each other and are creating new relationships and partnerships.

The buzz when I was in there last week included some people interacting with a pop-up healthy living exhibition, others having an enthusiastic and musical get-together, local and national social care experts talking about our residential care reports, a tai chi class, some people looking for information and colleagues from Ageing Better planning a fun day trip to Margate. Other days have included mother and toddler groups, yoga, the job hub giving employment support, Hopscotch providing training and the CAB providing advice. Most of this is a long way from conventional health care – all of it is provided by local groups or local residents themselves –and all of it is adding to the wellbeing of local residents. As the Living Centre develops we expect to see it as the heart of thriving network of health and wellbeing services in the area – with information provided by Healthwatch Camden as a core element.

Keeping an eye on quality

Our enthusiasm for working with community partners does not stop us from being interested in the big service providers in our area, the six NHS Foundation Trusts that are based in Camden and serve Camden residents. Every year, each NHS trust publishes a Quality Account, setting out what they have done to maintain and improve quality in their services. Healthwatch Camden is asked to comment on the Quality Accounts. We will be looking at draft Quality Accounts and giving our comments in the next couple of months. So if you have views on the quality of services at UCLH, the Royal Free, CNWL, Camden & Islington NHS Trust, Tavistock & Portman or Great Ormond Street Hospital, we want to know. We’re looking for views on services you or your family have used in the past year, so they are relevant to this year’s Quality Account.  

Of course, we don’t just comment once a year. We stay in touch with senior representatives of each trust, so that we can raise issues of concern quickly and effectively. Although service quality in Camden is generally good, we know that some things could be better. For example, we have had discussion with UCLH about difficulties with the appointment system at some of their outpatient departments. Again, if you have recent experiences you want to share, it helps us to understand the changes that UCLH need to make in order to make things better. Then we can keep following up to make sure the changes actually happen! You can share your experience by e mail or via our web form.