Message from Frances Hasler – Healthwatch Camden Director

A dilemma for all local Healthwatch organisations, us included, is how to prioritise what we focus on. There are so many important issues to consider. Should it be poor administration in outpatient departments? Or the way health commissioners are limiting the use of ‘procedures of limited clinical effectiveness’?

The changes in the way that adult social care is working? Or perhaps, the long term changes, including relocating inpatient beds, which are proposed for the St Pancras Hospital site? Changes in community services, including recommissioning a range of advice and befriending schemes?

The problems of ambulances getting held up at hospitals? Or last but equally important – the continuing health inequalities across our borough?

Together with the diverse range of services we can look at, we need to think about the diverse range of people who live in Camden and use local services. Should we look at specific population groups such as young people, or disabled people? Are we exploring the experience of people from all parts of the community?

What matters most to local people? To try to find out, we check feedback sites such as ‘NHS Choices’ or ‘Patient Opinion’. We read our local newspapers. We monitor the queries people bring to us. We invite feedback via our website. We go to public meetings, to hear what people say. We talk to colleagues in voluntary and community organisations, about what matters to the people using their services.  

As well as all this listening, we do some asking. One of the ways we use to help us to prioritise our work is our Your Voice Counts survey. We try to meet people at community events or at public venues such as libraries. We ask simple questions about what matters to people, and we use what you tell us to guide our work planning for the future.

Your voice does count – it helps us to make a difference in local services. So let us know what matters to you. You can also do this by commenting on our blog.

Making a difference

When we make a report on a particular area of concern to local people, we want to be sure that your voices really do make a difference. So we try to follow up our reports, to make sure that recommendations get put into action. This year we have been following up two in particular.

Making a difference in access to GP services

In 2016 we published a report highlighting the barriers for disabled people trying to communicate with their GP surgery. We made 11 recommendations for improvement. We were concerned that not enough was happening to implement our recommendations so we worked with the Local Medical Committee (which represents GPs) and Camden Clinical Commissioning Group (which is responsible for commissioning GP services) to draw up a list of 5 ‘quick wins’ – things that every surgery can do to improve the access for disabled people. One of our team has visited over half the surgeries to show reception and administration staff how to put these ideas into action. One ‘win’ has been to supply a patient registration form in easy-read and in big print, which can be used in every practice. Another has been to check the induction loops at each surgery.

Making a difference in mental health

In 2017 we published a report on change in a mental health service (the Highgate mental health day centre) and made recommendations on how change could be managed better in future. Since then we have been advising the mental health trust, Camden and Islington NHS Trust, on better ways of consulting service users about changes at the St Pancras site. Currently we are supporting services users at the REST service (specialist support for people affected by benzodiazepine dependency) which commissioners are planning to move to a new provider. We hope that commissioners apply the learning from our report, so that service users have a real say in the future of the service.

Have your say below on any of the issues covered in this blog post.