How have you coped with COVID-19 restrictions?
During the pandemic period we have been keeping in regular contact with our Healthwatch Champions. Allan Robinson has been volunteering with us since 2014 and enjoys the face-to-face, interactive elements of our work. Allan has many interests but has had to adjust to life under COVID-19 restrictions. He has spoken to us about his thoughts on the situation:
“The current virus has affected everyone in one way or another. Normal life seems to have changed forever, so how do we cope? Hospital appointments cancelled, doctors are difficult to access, libraries and community groups closed, shopping and travel difficult. On top of this family and friends’ visits are restricted.”
Supporting Patient Participation Groups
We have received requests in recent years from patient group members and GP practices to help develop their Patient Participation Groups (PPGs).
In response, we prioritised PPGs in our 2019—2020 workplan and launched the pilot of our Participation in Practice award (see our July newsletter for more on the award). However, this initiative only allowed us to support 12 PPGs. Other groups wanted to get involved so we created a new forum for PPG members — the Healthwatch Patient Participation Group Forum.
The first forum meeting took place earlier in February. Despite COVID-19 restrictions, the forum has met a further two times online to share good practice and identify issues, trends and problems.
Read more about the forum at www.healthwatchnewcastle.org.uk/news/patient-participation
Don’t box me in! Are services young people-friendly?
Healthwatch Gateshead received negative feedback last year from young people about the way health professionals treated them. They told us their doctor, dentist and/or optician spoke to their parents rather than to them and felt uncomfortable with their health professional’s manner.
Healthwatch Gateshead and Children North East worked in partnership to look at whether services in Newcastle and Gateshead were young people-friendly.
They focused on accessibility, patient choice, communication, confidentiality and feedback. Healthwatch Gateshead made several recommendations as a result of its ‘Don’t box me in’ report.
Welcoming a new Chief Executive
We are delighted to have appointed a new Chief Executive — Siobhan O’Neil — who will be joining us in October. Siobhan comes with a wealth of knowledge and experience in both the voluntary and the statutory sectors, most recently at a mental health and wellbeing charity in Northumberland.
In addition to a busy work life, Siobhan is mum to four boys, an active volunteer and enjoys running, usually slowly and as a way of offsetting cake consumption!
Siobhan is thrilled to be joining us. She’s looking forward to working with Cynthia Atkin (interim lead) during the handover period, getting to know the team and building on the strong work to date.
Forward-thinking Chair sought for ambitious CIC Board!
Tell Us North is a community interest company (CIC). It holds the contracts for Healthwatch Newcastle and Healthwatch Gateshead and is seeking a new Chair.
The Chair will support Tell Us North’s ambitious growth plans and ensure excellent governance arrangements. Working with the Chairs of the Healthwatch Newcastle and Healthwatch Gateshead Committees, the successful candidate will oversee the successful delivery of the Healthwatch contracts.
The closing date for applications is Monday 19 October 2020.
Find out more at https://tellusnorth.org.uk/vacancies
The rule of six
From Monday 14 September it is illegal to meet people you do not live with in groups of more than six. This new COVID-19 rule does not apply to schools and workplaces, or weddings, funerals and organised team sports. Failure to comply could result in a £100 fine.
Find out more at https://tinyurl.com/gov-six-rule
#DoYourBit to protect the NHS
Health leaders across Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle and Gateshead are asking people to do their bit by thinking pharmacy, GP and 111 first, and not just to turn up to A&E.
Health chiefs say that due to social distancing and infection precautions, the space available in A&E to care for people and allow NHS staff to work safely has been reduced by 30-50 per cent. Action is needed now to protect both patients and staff, from now and into the future.
If your need is not life-threatening, you are advised to contact your local pharmacy, GP or 111 online in the first instance.
Advice will be provided based on individual issues. Solutions will range from self-care through to an appointment with a GP or being directed to go to a pharmacist or an Urgent Treatment Centre.
Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month
September is Gynaecological Cancer Awareness Month. More than 21,000 women are diagnosed with a gynaecological cancer every year. The number of urgent suspected cancer referrals in general for June was 21 per cent lower than a year earlier, so it’s more vital than ever to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms.
Find out more about the symptoms and treatments at https://eveappeal.org.uk/gynaecological-cancers
Volunteer to help find the vaccine for COVID-19 in Newcastle
Several vaccines for COVID-19 are being developed and safety-tested but only large scale studies can give researchers information about how effective they are.
The National Institute for Health Research is working with the NHS and aims to recruit half a million people onto a registry by October. This will allow people to be put in touch with vaccine studies in the coming months. Researchers are looking for people from all backgrounds, ages and parts of the UK to take part in vaccine studies. This includes people with or without existing health conditions to make sure that any vaccines will work for everyone.
Anyone aged 18 or over and living in the UK can join the registry. There is no obligation to join a study if you are contacted. By taking part, you could help researchers find vaccines to protect us all more quickly — which in turn could help the NHS and save lives.
Take part at https://bepartofresearch.nihr.ac.uk
COVID-19: what people are telling us
In recent months we have been asking people in Newcastle for their experiences of health and social care services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This feedback is included in Healthwatch England’s latest briefing, which outlines the key issues experienced by over 19,000 people throughout England.
Find out more at https://bit.ly/2FjIFAB
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