Healthwatch England National Awards shortlist showcase – Improving health and social care

Posted August 29, 2019

Find out why five Healthwatch were nominated for our award celebrating the real changes they’ve helped make to people’s health and social care experiences.

A woman with a handbag on her shoulder, standing in front of an ambulance

Healthwatch is there to make sure health and care works for you. We do this by collecting your views about services, listening to your experiences of care and working with partners to influence the support the NHS and social care services provide.

Each year we celebrate the improvements made to care as result; from helping people to access mental health support in a crisis in North Tyneside, to encouraging health services to celebrate empathetic care in Wakefield.

Take a look at the five local Healthwatch shortlisted for the 2019 improving health and social care award.

Healthwatch West Berkshire – creating change for homeless people

In West Berkshire, health services were struggling to understand the unique needs of people who do not have a home, making it harder for them to access support. To better understand this issue, Healthwatch spoke to 14 homeless people, as well as the charities and bodies that support them, to build a picture of the challenges people were facing locally.

To raise awareness of homelessness in the area, Healthwatch West Berkshire used the experiences shared with them to create a media campaign aimed at ending rough sleeping by 2020, seven years ahead of the Government target.

Through this work, Healthwatch West Berkshire has been able to fundamentally change how homeless people are supported locally. Following their report, a new subgroup of the Health and Wellbeing Board was created, bringing together homelessness charities, the police, housing and health. The Homeless Strategy Group based its work around 14 of Healthwatch West Berkshire’s recommendations. This included creating a revolutionary multi-agency plan to support people who were rough sleeping during winter.

West Berkshire Council has also received £212,000 of extra funding from national government to help homeless people with complex needs. A new NHS health and dental outreach team has been created as a result, and a dual diagnosis key worker for people without a home has been recruited.

As well as this, Healthwatch West Berkshire has:

  • Worked with the community mental health team and Blue Light Project to support homeless people with serious alcohol issues.
  • Launched a West Berkshire My Right to Healthcare card, to help homeless people to get the health care they’re entitled to.
  • Been a member of the National NHS England Homeless Forum, which contributed to the NHS Long Term Plan.
  • Worked both nationally and locally with NHS acute trusts to try to improve hospital discharge for homeless people
  • Worked with their local MP to write to Baroness Blackwood about the HC1 form, which makes obtaining free treatment and prescriptions extremely difficult for homeless people.

I went to the GP as I can’t sleep at night. There just isn’t enough support and the doctor doesn’t understand or listen to my needs” — View shared with Healthwatch West Berkshire

Healthwatch WestBerkshire England National Award Nominated Rough Sleeping Homeless

Healthwatch Manchester – helping homeless people access mental health service

In Manchester, Healthwatch heard repeatedly that homeless people had mental health problems and that increasingly they were going to A&E in a mental health crisis. They were also concerned about the long waiting times, lack of accurate information available and difficulties homeless people faced when trying to get support for their mental health. Concerningly, they also heard that some homeless people have died when poor mental health has prevented them from looking after themselves properly.

Healthwatch Manchester worked with local organisations to speak with homeless people about their experiences and heard:

  • There is a lack of information about what support is available
  • Homeless people often felt stigmatised or not listened to by health services
  • Their health needs are complex, but there is no tailored mental health support for homeless people
  • Organisations across health, social care and the voluntary sector are not working together

I felt rejected because I was homeless.” — View shared with Healthwatch Manchester

Healthwatch Manchester used what homeless people had told them to recommend several improvements their local mental health service could implement. Sadly, two of the young men they interviewed died before these recommendations could be put in place.

As a result of their recommendations, there are now double the number of frontline staff working with homeless people, a lead clinician who will oversee mental health services, and a pilot scheme has been developed to provide specialist mental health support through seven GP practices in Manchester.

Young teenager with dark hair and a green top, sitting on a chair.

Healthwatch Suffolk – My Health, Our Future

Healthwatch Suffolk worked with 29 schools and colleges to understand children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing by looking at issues like social media, self-esteem, body image, cyberbullying and sleep.

Over 26,000 young people (aged 11-19) have shared their views and Healthwatch Suffolk has been able to use their experiences to improve the support available to them inside and outside of school.

Schools now have a better understanding of their pupils’ mental health needs, enabling them to provide better support for their wellbeing. This has included participation in mental health and wellbeing schemes and awards, targeted education for vulnerable year groups, improved safeguarding training for staff and changes to PHSE lesson content.

Importantly, the “My Health, Our Future” reports have been included in commissioner led strategies for mental health support in Suffolk and have been used to inform and shape all decisions about what support for children and young people should look like.

The findings have also supported the decision by commissioners to make extra funding available for several schools. They are currently testing different approaches to supporting young people’s emotional wellbeing and mental health.

Health and care commissioners are now clearer about the scale of self-harm across Suffolk and have funded a local organisation to deliver an interactive workshop to Suffolk schools and colleges, discussing self-harm and mental health. The workshop will be delivered by students and will feature young people’s real-life stories about self-harm.

Significantly, Healthwatch Suffolk were invited to share what young LGBTQ+ people had told them at a House of Commons Select Committee enquiry into LGBTQ+ people’s experiences of NHS and social care support, meaning their work has had an impact nationally, as well as in Suffolk.

Healthwatch North Tyneside – improving mental health crisis support

It’s vital that people going through a mental health crisis get the right support quickly. In North Tyneside, however, Healthwatch found that people were struggling to access crisis care when they needed it.

Working with people who’ve experienced a mental health crisis, their carers, mental health professionals and service commissioners, Healthwatch North Tyneside spoke to over 200 people about their experiences of using services in a mental health crisis.  People shared their views through surveys, focus groups and telephone interviews to ensure a range of people’s views were heard.  

Based on the feedback Healthwatch North Tyneside received, they continued to work with those involved to recommended how services could improve, which included:

  • Creating one assessment for anyone experiencing a mental health crisis, so they don’t need to be re-assessed by multiple services.
  • Developing a crisis support service for people who don’t meet the threshold for support from the current crisis team.

People’s experiences have now been used by North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group to create a new low-level crisis service for people who previously would have been left without help, showing how putting people at the heart of care can improve the support available to them.   

A blonde woman wearing a yellow medical uniform.

Healthwatch Wakefield – Tackling barriers to compassion in care

Being treated with compassion is critical to people having positive experiences of health and social care services. So, when Healthwatch Wakefield received multiple reports that people were not always receiving empathetic care, they decided to find out more.

They set out to create and influence a group of leaders and managers in care services, by working with the NHS, Clinical Commissioning Groups, the local council, care providers and hospices. Together, they looked at the barriers preventing services from providing compassionate care, by speaking to over 100 frontline health professionals, as well more than 100 Wakefield residents.

At an event on World Kindness Day, Healthwatch Wakefield presented their findings and invited local organisations to speak about the challenges they face while delivering care, as well as the work services are doing to improve people’s experiences.

The work of Healthwatch and partner organisation has led multiple changes to health and social care services in Wakefield, including:

  • A ‘Compassion in care’ learning module being piloted with integrated care staff as part of their induction.
  • Yorkshire Ambulance Service encouraging and, importantly, recognising exceptional compassionate care from their staff.
  • Mid Yorkshire Hospital introducing new ‘Compassion in care’ cards to be given to staff who have delivered empathetic care.
  • A care home introducing regular ‘sit and chat’ sessions, where staff are able to spend more time with residents, by having a chat and cup of tea together.