Over the last year, more than 1,500 people shared their views on the county’s health and social care services with Healthwatch Dorset, helping to make care better for local people.

In its latest Annual Report, published today, Healthwatch Dorset highlights how it has worked with communities across the county to make a difference to the way health and care services are run, and to raise awareness of important health and social care issues. (See below `The year in brief`.)

The most common areas of comment and concern raised with Healthwatch Dorset last year were around access to GPs, mental health services, primary care services and hospital services, in particular faster diagnosis and treatment, and annual health checks and regular support for people with long-term health conditions.  Concerns were also raised about transport to health and social care services.

The year in numbers

  • Over 1,500 people shared their views and experiences of local health and social care.
  • Over 1,000 people sought information, advice, and support on how to get the care they need.
  • Healthwatch Dorset visited over 200 community events, venues and health and care services across the county, to understand people’s experiences.
  • They made 16 recommendations for improvement to health and social care providers.
  • They created 7 community films to raise awareness of health and social care issues.
  • 120 volunteers supported Healthwatch Dorset last year, giving up 400 hours of their time to engage with patients and the public, and to assess services.

Common issues and concerns

The most common areas of comment and concern raised with Healthwatch Dorset last year were around access to GPs, mental health services, and hospital services, in particular faster diagnosis and treatment, and annual health checks and regular support for people with long-term health conditions. Concerns were also raised about transport to health and social care services.

Announcing the report, Viv Aird, Chair of Healthwatch Dorset local Steering Group, said: “Looking back over last year provides a great opportunity to highlight the value of listening and learning from people’s experiences.  We have connected with local communities across the county and represented their views to NHS decision makers and service providers, to make sure that public feedback is embedded into future planning for health and social care in Dorset.  I would like to thank everyone who has shared their story with us, and to our volunteers and the many groups we work with who help make health and social care better for local people.”

Louise Bate, Healthwatch Dorset Manager, added: “We are looking forward to another productive year in 2020/21, focusing on improving services by promoting what matters most to local people.

“We are currently investigating how people’s access to health and social care services has been affected by coronavirus.  NHS and social care staff have had to adapt to a lot of change over the last few months, and there will be things that can be improved in how they provide care, now and in the future.  We want you to share your feedback on GP surgeries, care homes, hospitals, mental health services and dentists etc, to help services spot the issues and understand how to respond.  Tell us what it’s been like for you during COVID-19 by completing our short online survey (smartsurvey.co.uk/s/CoronavirusHWD/) or by getting in touch with us on: 0300 111 0102.”

The year in brief: How listening to local people has helped make health and social care better

Dorset NHS Long Term Plan:  Healthwatch Dorset asked people #WhatWouldYouDo to improve the NHS locally?  They want local services to focus on quicker and easier access to GPs, faster diagnosis and treatment options, annual health checks, more regular support for people with long-term conditions.  These findings will inform Dorset NHS future plans.

Changes to A&E performance measures:  Healthwatch Dorset investigated what matters most to people who use Poole Hospital A&E as part of a national project to inform future changes to A&E care.  People want to see better communications with patients, family, and carers who use A&E.

Improving local cancer support:  Healthwatch Dorset asked cancer patients, carers, and family members about their experiences of cancer support in West Dorset.  They want more support generally around emotions, treatment, finances, and transport, and specifically for younger patients, carers, and family members.  They also want different support options in their local communities.  The findings will shape a new Macmillan community support project.

Raising awareness of diabetes in young people:  Diabetes has more than doubled in the last 20 years; there are now almost 3.7 million people living with the condition in the UK (Source: Diabetes UK).  Healthwatch Dorset helped young people make films, blogs, and presentations to raise awareness of what it is like to live with type 1 diabetes, to reach out to other young people who have the condition, and to campaign to get glucose sensors available on prescription.  Issy, age 13, said: “I really enjoyed working with Healthwatch Dorset.  I wanted to reach out to other young people with type 1 diabetes and also raise awareness of the condition among those who do not know what it is like.”

Sharing real-life stories on film to build understanding:  Healthwatch Dorset worked with Bournemouth University to create a series of impactful films showing local people talking about their experiences of homelessness, end of life care, and living with long-term health conditions.  The films were shared with health and social care students and the wider community to provide insight into the complex care issues and challenges.

Read the full Healthwatch Dorset Annual Report 2019/20 to find out more: healthwatchdorset.co.uk/reports-publications

Healthwatch Dorset projects for 2020/21

Healthwatch Dorset has identified the following areas for investigation in 2020/21, in response to feedback from local people last year, and national and local health and social care priorities:

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

These projects will be developed during the year, as heath and care services begin to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, to make sure the work reflects people’s needs.