Healthwatch Dorset is looking forward to helping local health and care services learn and improve with the announcement of several new projects for the year ahead.

The new Healthwatch projects will address the impact of coronavirus and look into issues raised by local people, while also reflecting national and local priorities in health and social care.  Projects will focus on the following broad themes (see below for more detail):

  • Accessing local health and care services during the coronavirus pandemic
  • Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
  • Primary Care Services (such GPs, pharmacy and dentistry)
  • Transport to health and social care services
  • Accident and Emergency Care (A&E)

Each project will gather people’s views and experiences linked to a specific aspect of health and care provision.  The aim is to find out what works well for local people and what they think could be improved.  This public feedback will then be shared with those in charge of delivering health and care in Dorset with recommendations to help improve services for local people.

Vivienne Aird, Chair of the Healthwatch Dorset local Board, explained why they have chosen to investigate these areas of Dorset’s health and social care provision: “Health and care services are more effective when they reflect and respond to the views and needs of local people.  Our new projects will investigate the impact of coronavirus along with common themes that we have identified from public feedback received during the previous year.  We have consulted widely to ensure that our work also feeds into national and local NHS and social care priorities.  This approach will ensure that we are able to influence positive change and make a real difference for local people.”

Healthwatch Dorset Manager, Louise Bate, outlined how they will adapt and deliver their public engagement projects in the face of current social distancing restrictions: “We will launch our projects throughout the year, starting with our new online survey to find out how this virus outbreak may be changing the way in which you access local services, particularly if you rely on them for regular care:

“Social distancing means we will need to be creative about the way we reach people, but there are plenty of other ways people can share their experiences with us through online surveys, social media and over the phone, and we will be working hard to reach out and listen.”

Healthwatch Dorset is the county’s independent health and care champion.  It exists to make sure that local people’s views are heard by those in charge of health and care social care and used to help make services better. It also provides information and advice to help people find out about local services and support.

If you want to know more about Healthwatch Dorset’s work you can sign up to receive a monthly ebulletin, follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or LinkedIn, and visit the website:
You can contact Healthwatch Dorset by phone: 0300 111 0102 (local rate number) or email:

Healthwatch Dorset priorities April 2020-March 2021

Accessing local health and care services during the coronavirus pandemic

In April, Healthwatch Dorset launched a new public feedback project to find out how coronavirus is affecting people’s experience of local health and care services.  People are sharing their stories about how services are adapting, to highlight what is working well and where things need to be improved.  This information will be shared with those providing services in Dorset to help them understand how to adapt and deliver effective care during such challenging times.  More information:

Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)

This project will build on Healthwatch Dorset’s existing engagement work with seldom heard and marginalised young people.  For example, developing relationships and gathering feedback from children and young people excluded from school, young asylum seekers, young people who are settled travellers or homeless, and young offenders.  This project will feed into the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group’s review of CAMHS and it will be used to establish a new Healthwatch Dorset ‘Young Listeners’ project later in the year.

Access to Primary Care

Access to primary care is one of the most common areas of public feedback received by Healthwatch Dorset.  Primary care refers to the first place people go to when they need health advice or treatment for symptoms that are new or for concerns about physical or mental health.  This includes, for example, GP surgeries, pharmacies, opticians, and community care services such as musculoskeletal clinics.  People using primary care can have a broad and varied range of access and care needs, for example, disabled access, support for carers, and access for older people or homeless people.  This project is also an opportunity to develop stronger working relationships with Patient Participation Groups and Primary Care Networks in Dorset.  The nature and timing of this project will be reviewed to ensure it reflects the impact of coronavirus on how primary care is delivered.

Accessing transport to health and social care services

This is a key theme raised with Healthwatch Dorset by local people, and it covers a wide range of social, economic and geographic issues and needs.  For example, disabled access, access for older people and socially isolated individuals, access for rural communities and those with low incomes.

This is a year-long research and engagement project.  Healthwatch Dorset aims to work with Public Health, local NHS, local councils, the voluntary sector and Healthwatch England to develop and deliver this project.  Research is underway to develop an interactive map of community transport schemes across Dorset.  This will highlight what schemes are available, who they serve, the geographic areas they cover, and where there are gaps in provision.  Healthwatch Dorset will use the map to target areas and communities for future engagement work around this theme.

Accident and Emergency Care (A&E)

Healthwatch Dorset plans to work with Dorset County Hospital in early 2021 to improve patient experience in A&E and to inform planned changes to local services in Dorset following the Clinical Services Review.

The project will build on work carried out last year to investigate people’s experiences of using Poole Hospital A&E.  This was part of a national project to inform the NHS review of A&E performance measures.  Healthwatch Dorset published its findings in February 2020, including recommendations for how Poole Hospital A&E could improve patient experience.  More information:  What matters to people using Poole Hospital Accident & Emergency?