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 maintain care and support 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 and support.  As health and social care services recover from COVID-19, public feedback has never been more important to help providers reflect and develop to provide the best possible care.

We launched our public feedback project in April 2020 to find out how people’s experience of local health and care services have been affected by the virus.  This included an online survey, focus group discussions and interviews.  Our survey closed at the end of September 2020; we are analysing feedback and will report our findings in autumn 2020.

We will use this feedback to tell local NHS and social care providers what is working well and where things need to adapt and improve.  Our work will also feed into national research carried out by Healthwatch England and the Care Quality Commission.

Complete our confidential feedback survey: smartsurvey.co.uk/s/CoronavirusHWD/


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.

Primay 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.  More information: What matters to people using Poole Hospital Accident & Emergency?

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.

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.

This is what 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.

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.

Read more:

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.

Read the final report What matters to people using Poole Hospital Accident & Emergency? February 2020.

Read more:

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.

Read more:

Watch the films: bournemouth.ac.uk/about/our-faculties/faculty-health-social-sciences/public-involvement-education-research/our-resources

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 our final report NHS Long Term Plan: The views of Dorset residents, July 2019.

Read more: