Healthwatch England Publishes Annual Report to Parliament
Over the last year, Healthwatch England, the independent champion for people who use health and social care services, has heard from 341,000 people, carers and staff, all of whom have given their time to share their experiences of health and social care services.
Across the country, Healthwatch have been helping local health and care leaders to use this insight to make positive and practical changes – from helping GP practices in Crawley become more autism friendly to ensuring care homes in Middlesbrough are properly equipped to support people with dementia.
In total, the network of 152 local Healthwatch has published more than 1,745 reports creating an unparalleled source of feedback from people about how the NHS and social care services are performing in the current climate.
The sum of these reports has been compiled by Healthwatch England and is today being presented to MPs in their fifth annual report to Parliament.
The collective feedback paints a mixed picture of good care with some variation in quality and access. The area where Healthwatch received most comments was primary care. However, it is mental health services that stand out with an overwhelming majority of people’s comments reflecting a negative experience.
With services straining under a range of pressures there has been concerted effort from the NHS, government and local councils to introduce changes to the way care is delivered. Yet the experiences reported to Healthwatch over the last 12 months suggest much of these system led changes are yet to translate into tangible differences for people.
- Mental health
The Government and NHS have significantly increased their focus on improving mental health support for the public, but accessing the right support at the right time can still be a challenge for those who need it.
In the year ahead Healthwatch will prioritise helping services understand what improvements the public want to see and supporting commissioners and providers to ensure people are diagnosed in a timely and consistent manner, given support sooner, and are treated before they reach crisis.
- Primary care
Most people are satisfied with the care they receive from GPs, dentists and pharmacists, however Healthwatch have heard there is still room for improvement. In particular the process of booking appointments is a significant source of frustration.
The best way to identify what needs to improve is for services to actively seek out feedback, with the CQC stating in their recent report that understanding people’s needs is key to delivering outstanding care.
Over the next year Heathwatch will encourage GP practices to remind patients how they can share their views to help improve care, and clearly outline how these views have been used to make changes.
- Hospital care
People value hospital staff and recognise the pressure they are under. They also reported that their experiences – from getting to appointments, to leaving hospital – can vary greatly.
Patients still tell local Healthwatch about problems with communication, coordination and the support available once they’ve left hospital and, for this reason, the Healthwatch network will continue to work with hospitals and their partners to help them understand how they can genuinely improve experience for people.
- Social care
People reported that some care providers deliver their social care services without listening to what people who use them actually want. People and their families also said they want to be more involved in the decisions that affect their lives.
Healthwatch will be conducting further research to understand what people want from social care in the future. They will use the findings to show commissioners and social care providers how they can improve quality by making better use of people’s feedback.
Reports from across the Healthwatch network suggest that the value of listening to patient feedback is starting to gain real traction within the NHS, with two thirds of local Healthwatch reporting that healthcare providers are now actively seeking out information from them about how patients are experiencing care.
Building on this, Healthwatch England is now developing its new five year strategy – to learn, share and debate how together we can make an even bigger difference in the years ahead.
Jane Mordue, Chair of Healthwatch England, said that “over the last year, we have seen some inspirational examples of people speaking up, highlighting what’s working well and where things need to improve. We have also seen outstanding services listening to what people want and using their feedback to change the way care is delivered.
“This is encouraging, as we know that the best services are the ones that understand and respond to their customers. But whilst there has been progress, there is still a long way to go before this approach to gathering and using feedback becomes commonplace across health and social care.
“Our research shows that the majority of people are willing to share their views to help improve services but people need to know how they can share their views and professionals must be given the time and space to listen properly.”