Our new Director summarises the views shared with Healthwatch Camden on health, care and the NHS.
(Adapted from a talk given at Camden Health and Care Citizens’ Assembly on 29th February)
Arriving from another part of the Healthwatch network, I was already familiar with some of the great work done by Healthwatch Camden.
Since our creation in 2014 our staff and volunteers spoke to thousands of people and helped us publish many reports and recommendations for change.
This has regularly involved quick chats at markets, festivals and shops. But also, in-depth interviews and large-scale surveys on specific topics.
A number of clear themes emerge in these conversations. Whilst everyone has a different perspective on how their health and care services should work, Camden residents agree on many things.
Feeling safe and confident in hospital and at home
People say they don’t want to spend a long time in hospital, they want good and well-coordinated support to get home, and they want to feel safe when they get home. People also value contact with doctors and hospital consultants who they trust. If they are not able to see a specialist, they want reassurance about how to confidently manage their condition.
More support for mental health
Expanding and improving mental health services, especially for young people, is a high priority for people in Camden. Many young people tell us they’re living with stress or anxiety and would like more and different types of support.
Efficient and accessible services
Sometimes making services more reliable and responsive is about money. People understand that. But patients tell us they get frustrated when the simple, cheap and obvious improvements are not implemented.
People would like things to be properly joined up and coordinated – we hear about a “ping-pong” effect as patients get bounced between different services. Lots of people live with more than one health condition and it’s frustrating when different people or services don’t appear to talk to each other.
Additionally, we often hear that Camden has many good services but there is very low awareness or confusion about some services, how to find them and who is eligible for support.
Seeing the ‘whole’ individual
Social determinants such as housing and a family’s financial situation affect health and wellbeing. We’ve talked to people about the links between housing and health – particularly mental health – and made recommendations aimed at health & housing services working together better. We will be following up this work later on this year.
Improving health is complicated
People tell us they know about lots of things they should do to improve their health, for example, eating more healthily. But some say it’s difficult and feels out of their control. People are managing different priorities, lack the financial means required and don’t feel supported or empowered enough to make changes.
Improving support for the most vulnerable
It is very common for us to hear that things work very well for most people. People are often incredibly grateful for the care and support provided. That said, when things go wrong, they can go very wrong.
The effects of this are most keenly felt by those who are most vulnerable. For example, people who are deaf or visually impaired told us that it can be “pot luck” whether they get good communication support from their GP, often depending which staff member happens to be on duty.
And whilst individual services can perform very well when treating people, the health and care system is failing to arrest the continuing growth in health inequalities which mean that people from poorer areas die, on average, 10 years younger than others.
Having become Healthwatch Camden’s new Director in January this year, I look forward to bringing this work to a wider audience and building further on the impact that people’s views and experiences have on how services are planned and delivered in the future.
In addition to sharing these views with the new Health and Care Citizens’ Assembly we will be using them as the basis for our contribution to the new Health & Wellbeing Strategy for the Borough.
We’d love to know if you agree with these themes, or if there are important topics that are missing. Comment below or share your views here.