Our Projects

Our priorities for April 2020 – March 2021

Healthwatch Dorset’s priorities for this year have been identified and agreed as part of the annual work plan process.  These projects are:


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 never been more important.  It 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 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 by the pandemic.

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.

Young People’s health and care services

Young Listeners

For our ‘Young Listeners’ project, we are recruiting and training young volunteers to speak to other young people in Dorset about their experiences of health and care services, and their ideas for how the health care system could work better for young people.

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.

Primary Care

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. 

Other projects – mental health services and support

We are involved in a range of projects this year to gather feedback and raise awareness about mental health services and support.

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 speak to 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 has been shared with the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group, makes several recommendations for change and improvement.

Read more:

Metal 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 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.

Related links:

Other projects

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.  We gathered community insight to help them develop two new pilot projects called Right by You, for West Dorset and Southampton.  We worked in partnership with Wessex Voices and Healthwatch Southampton.

During January to February 2020, over 100 cancer patients, carers, and family members responded to our online survey and we interviewed almost 40 people face-to-face across Dorchester, Weymouth, and Portland.  Publication of our findings has been delayed due coronavirus, but this is what people 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.

The publication of this report has been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but it will be available on our website later in the year.

Read more:

PLACE assessments

Twenty-one of 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. This includes cleanliness; food and hydration; privacy, dignity, and wellbeing; condition, appearance, and maintenance of hospitals; how well the needs of patients with dementia are met; and how well the needs of patients with a disability are met.

The results, which were published by the NHS in March 2020, showed that all hospitals rated very highly for overall cleanliness, while other areas need some improvement.

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A&E services at Poole Hospital

The project investigated 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.

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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.

Related links:

Diabetes awareness

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.

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.

Read more: