Each year we work on our priority projects and other projects that arise. This can be in response to current and emerging developments in health and social care, through our involvement with projects to support our local partners, or because we are monitoring the progress health and social care providers make to act on our previous recommendations for change.
Advocating for better NHS dental care in Dorset
In early 2022 we investigated the lack of access to NHS dentistry which had become a major area of public concern in Dorset, and across the whole country. Read our report (February 2022). We repeated our research at the end of 2022, revealing there were no NHS dentists in Dorset taking new adult patients and many dentists were only accepting patients who could pay privately. Read our report (February 2023).
We reported the situation to Dorset’s Integrated Care Board as they prepared to take on responsibility for NHS Dentistry in 2023. We also reported to the NHS Local Dental Network for the South West, and Healthwatch England, calling for fairer access to affordable NHS dental care.
Developments in Dorset since our reports include a child-friendly dental pilot practice in the Wareham area, an additional 100 urgent care appointments every week across the county, and a stabilisation programme with initially 30 appointments every week for people who do not have a regular dentist. In July 2022, NHS England announced several steps to ensure better dental support for people with complex problems and improve the information for those trying to find an NHS dentist. Read more from Healthwatch England.
Better support for carers when their loved one is discharged from hospital to home
In early 2022, we asked carers about their experiences of supporting loved ones leaving hospital to recover at home. We used their feedback to highlight the challenges carers face and their ideas for how the service, known as Home First, could be improved.
Our report was used by NHS Dorset to help redesign the Home First service so that it works better for the people who deliver it and for those who are supported by it, including patients, families, and carers. In addition, NHS Dorset has created new leaflets about the service to help carers; and the Hospital Carer Passport was introduced. Read our report (September 2022).
Improving patient experience at Dorset County Hospital A&E
Local people told us about their experiences of being treated at Dorset County Hospital A&E. Patient feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with almost three quarters rating their experience as ‘very good’, but there were also some common areas of concern.
Our recommendations, based on public feedback, have informed the hospital’s A&E refurbishment plans, including a new entrance and waiting area, larger resuscitation rooms, bigger cubicles, a new digital system, and better facilities. Read our report (April 2022).
Integrated Care System (ICS)
The new Dorset ICS came into power in July 2022. We worked with the ICS throughout 2022 to help develop a new integrated care strategy that brings people to the heart of health and care service design and delivery, and we will continue to work closely with the ICS to achieve this aim.
Access to GPs
We gathered feedback locally and worked with NHS Dorset to evaluate patient engagement in GP enhanced access plans. We worked with Primary Care Networks in North Dorset, Poole & Purbeck to encourage patient involvement and support Carers events. Our involvement in the evaluation of GP enhanced access plans led to sharing good practice in patient engagement.
Evaluating hospital environments:
Patient Led Assessments of the Care Environment (PLACE)
Our volunteers took part in PLACE visits across Dorset, as patient assessors. They went into hospitals to evaluate how the environment supports the provision of clinical care. They assessed privacy and dignity, food, cleanliness and general building maintenance, and the extent to which the environment is able to support the care of those with dementia or with a disability.
Patient experience of Accident and Emergency Care (A&E)
COVID-19 changed the way A&E services are provided and the NHS now wants people to contact NHS 111 before visiting A&E. We investigated how new ways of working have affected people and how patient experience at A&E could be improved.
In early 2021 our volunteers carried out phone interviews with 147 people who had recently visited Poole Hospital A&E. In autumn 2021, our volunteers carried out 256 phone interviews with people who recently visited Dorset County Hospital A&E. Most people gave positive feedback, but some areas for improvement were identified around information, waiting times, facilities, and staff attitude.
We shared our findings and recommendations for improvement with the hospitals and with NHS England Improvement. Changes are being made in the A&E departments and our report will guide plans for a new, modern Emergency Department at Dorset County Hospital.
Read our reports:
Making health and care better for young people
We gave young people in Dorset the opportunity to directly influence improvements in the health and social care services they use.
Between January and May 2021, we recruited and trained a group of young volunteers aged 16-23 to become Young Listeners. They designed and delivered a peer-to-peer engagement project to explore the issues that are important to young people. In June and July 2021, they met and ‘listened’ to 70 young people from across Dorset. They heard about the barriers and challenges young people face when seeking care and support, and the changes they want to see to make services work better for young people. In November 2021, they reported their findings to Dorset’s health and care decision makers and made recommendations for how to improve services for young people.
Read our report (November 2021)
Watch our film: Making health and care better for young people (November 2021)
Inequalities in health and social care
Working with CQC to promote the voice of homeless communities
In summer 2021, we asked Dorset’s homeless community about their experiences of using health and social care services. We wanted to understand the challenges they face and the changes they would like to see to make it easier to get the care and support they need. We also asked how health and care services could communicate more effectively with people who are homeless.
Our report, published in October 2021, highlights the barriers and challenges that homeless people face when trying to access health and social care services. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is using this insight to guide its work tackling inequalities in health and social care, by improving access to services, patient experience and health outcomes for everyone.
Read our report (October 2021)
Watch our film: Tackling health inequalities through engagement (November 2021)
View the news report on BBC South (10 October 2021)
Covid-19 vaccination programme
In response to Covid-19, the NHS launched one of the largest ever public vaccination programmes. We asked local people to share their views and experiences about the vaccination programme. We published our interim findings in March 2021 and will publish our final report later in the year. We will share our findings with Dorset’s health and care providers to help them understand how to maximise the effectiveness of vaccine delivery across the county.
Read our report (March 2021)
Review of community mental health services
Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group launched their ‘Mental Health Integrated Community Care Project’ in summer 2020, to involve local people in shaping the future of community mental health services in Dorset. We wanted to hear from people who don’t always have a strong voice, to give them the opportunity to make a real difference to the way mental health services in our community are set up and delivered.
In November 2020, we talked to people with a range of mental health support needs, including people who are experiencing homelessness and those with drug and alcohol addictions, as well as voluntary sector workers who support them. Our report, which was published in December 2020 and shared with the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, makes several recommendations for change and improvement.
Read our report (December 2020)
Care during Covid-19
The coronavirus pandemic required health and social care services to adapt at great speed to care for people with the virus, while trying to reduce infections and maintain care for many of our most sick and vulnerable people. Many treatments and services were put on hold, while others introduced new ways of delivering care. Public feedback has and will help NHS and social care services understand how to respond effectively to Covid-19 to provide the care and support people need.
Between April and September 2020, we ran a public feedback project to find out how the pandemic was affecting people’s experiences of care locally. Throughout the project, we shared real-time feedback with local health and care providers to help them respond quickly. Our final report, published in November 2020, provides analysis over the first sixth months on the pandemic; it identifies the challenges and achievements of a health and social care sector turned upside down. This work will inform developments in local health and social care, and it will also feed into national research carried out by Healthwatch England and the Care Quality Commission.
Read our reports and news item:
Mental Health – it’s OK to talk
In October 2020, in response to feedback about local mental health services, we released a new film Mental Health – It’s OK to talk. This impactful film, produced with the support of Healthwatch Dorset volunteers, a local film company and students, features local people sharing their mental health stories – their circumstances, challenges, and their coping strategies. The main message in the film, linked to World Mental Health Day, is that people’s mental health can be affected at any time, by a wide range of circumstances, and talking is a great way to start and support recovery.
Read more (October 2020)
Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
Our ‘Your Mind, Your Say’ project built on our previous and ongoing engagement work with seldom heard and marginalised young people. We developed relationships and gathered feedback from children and young people excluded from school, young asylum seekers, young people who are settled travellers or homeless, and young offenders. Our project report will inform the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group’s review of CAMHS and it has guided the development of our new ‘Young Listeners’ project.
Read our report (August 2020)
Our volunteers helped eight Dorset hospitals with their annual NHS Patient-Led Assessments of the Care Environment (PLACE), reporting on their strengths and areas for improvement. They were guided by our staff to use the national NHS assessment framework to look at non-clinical elements of hospital care which affect patient experience, including cleanliness, food, privacy, condition of hospitals, and how well the needs of patients with dementia and disabilities are met. The results, published by the NHS in March 2020, showed that all hospitals rated very highly for overall cleanliness, while other areas need some improvement.
Read more (March 2020)
A&E services at Poole Hospital
We investigated people’s experiences of using Poole Hospital A&E, as part of a national project to inform the NHS review of A&E performance measures. Our report, published in February 2020, includes recommendations for how Poole Hospital A&E could improve patient experience.
Read our report (February 2020)
Improving cancer support in West Dorset
Macmillan Cancer Support and the Wessex Cancer Alliance want to provide earlier cancer support for people in the community. Working in partnership with Wessex Voices and Healthwatch Southampton, we gathered community insight to inform the development of two new pilot projects called Right by You, for West Dorset and Southampton. During January to February 2020, we spoke to cancer patients, carers, and family members. They told us:
- People are grateful to the NHS for their medical treatment.
- Those affected by cancer would like more support with emotions, medical treatment, finances and transport.
- There is less support available for some groups, including younger patients, carers, and family members.
- People are seeking different support options in their local communities.
- Almost 40% of those who completed our online survey and 60% of those we interviewed, had not talked about their support needs with an NHS professional.
Raising awareness with real-life stories
Sharing people’s stories is a great way to build understanding and influence change. We worked with Bournemouth University to create a series of films about real people’s experiences of the health and social care system, including homelessness, end-of-life care and living with long-term health conditions. The films were shared with health and social care students and promoted in the wider community.
Matt’s story was nominated for a national Charity Film Award. It provides a powerful insight into how unexpected life events can create a pathway into homelessness, substance misuse and poor health, which can prove difficult to move beyond. Matt also tells how local charity Hope Housing helped him find stability and new direction.
Completed October 2019. Related links:
The number of people diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled in the last 20 years. There are now almost 3.7 million people living with diabetes in the UK. Approximately 15% of those are living with type 1 diabetes. (Source: Diabetes UK)
We talked to young people about their experiences of living with type 1 diabetes. We helped them raise awareness of the condition and to reach out to other young people in Dorset who are living with diabetes. We worked with six schools and the Dorset Diabetes Nurse Team, and talked to hundreds of young people across the county. With our support, they ran assemblies during Diabetes Week, created a blog, and produced two short films that were shown in schools and promoted on social media during World Diabetes Day. The blog and videos have been seen by thousands of people and shared with health commissioners and providers.
14-year old Rosey’s blog raised awareness of what it’s like to live with type 1 diabetes. She won the Young Person’s Outstanding Contribution at the Diabetes UK Inspire awards for campaigning to get glucose sensors available on prescription.
Completed November 2019. Read more:
NHS Long Term Plan
The NHS published a Long Term Plan in January 2019, setting out all the things it wants health services to do better for people across the country. We asked local people about the changes they would like to see to improve the NHS in Dorset.
Completed 2019. Read more:
April 2022 – March 2023
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