03 May

Healthwatch Newcastle Newsletter – 23 April 2020

Our priorities for 2020 – 2021

Earlier this year we asked you to help us choose our new work priorities from a shortlist of health and social care topics. The list was:

  1. Adult social care assessment process
  2. Carers’ assessments
  3. Interpreting services
  4. Reviews of social care support for people who are no longer in crisis
  5. Supporting young people who are facing gender identity issues

Unfortunately, the work we were doing to make sure as many people as possible could share their views on our priorities was limited by the spread of COVID—19 (coronavirus) and the restrictions on gatherings and movement. Therefore, we only managed to hear from 72 people, which is lower than in previous years. However, those people clearly told us that the adult social care assessment process was the most important priority, followed by carers’ assessments.

Things have changed a lot since we launched our priority-setting in January and Newcastle is a very different place. So, last week our Committee decided that we need to take a different approach to priorities this year. Our immediate priorities are:

  • Information-giving — communicating key messages to the public. These will relate to how to stay safe and well, how to get help if and when required, how to support others, etc. Most of this will be via electronic/social media and our radio show.
  • Signposting — supporting people to get the help that they need in response to enquiries via the phone, email, website and social media.
  • Troubleshooting — helping people who are not getting the response they need.

Supporting the local communities — working with others within the voluntary and community sector, health and the local authority to support the wider community. This will primarily be via befriending calls but could cover a range of other activities determined by the team and community need.

We will continue to gather information and feedback about people’s experiences of services and share these with the people that plan and provide the services. As things settle, we’ll look at how we can do this more, without breaking regulations or putting anyone at risk.

When the pandemic period has passed, we will look at longer-term priorities and these may be an opportunity to reflect on and learn from the pandemic response.


So long, farewell

Steph Edusei, Chief Executive, writes:

“I will be leaving my role as Chief Executive of Healthwatch Newcastle at the end of April after five and a half years to take up my new post as Chief Executive of St Oswald’s Hospice. During that time, we’ve seen a lot of changes. I like to think that Healthwatch Newcastle has become a respected and influential partner in the city. As a result, we have much more ability to amplify the voices of the people who live and use health and social care services here.

We have completed in-depth engagement and research on a huge range of topics: from home care services to access to GP services; from Education, Health and Care Plans for children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities to barriers to accessing cancer screening programmes; from developing effective patient participation groups in GP practices (PPGs) to health care provision in prisons.

I’ve been very lucky to always be supported by a great team of volunteers. Our Committee members all give their time freely to steer the strategic direction of Healthwatch Newcastle, and over the past five years we have had a huge range of skills, experiences and backgrounds on our Committee. Our Healthwatch Champions are tireless in their support of our work, even volunteering to help us complete surveys in Emergency Departments at midnight on a Saturday. I always look forward to the times I get to meet with and work alongside them as their enthusiasm is infectious and their knowledge of their local communities impressive.

Over the past five years, we’ve seen changes in staff and structures and I’m honoured to have worked with a very skilled and committed staff team; I have learnt a huge amount from them and will miss them. However, I hope that we will be able to work together in future in my new role.

This is a difficult time for many people and organisations, and the work that we are doing is more important now that it has ever been. I’d like to thank you all for the support that you have given me and will continue to give to Healthwatch Newcastle.”


Heading for pastures new

Felicity Shenton, Deputy Chief Executive/Operations Manager, writes:

“After a year at Healthwatch I am heading off to pastures new. I just wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on my time here.

I have met and worked with a fantastic team of people, including a passionate and committed group of Healthwatch Champions without whom we simply could not deliver the services that we do. And I have worked with colleagues and partners in the local authority, NHS and within the voluntary and community sector, who are all committed to delivering and improving public services.

From strategic level meetings with Newcastle Gateshead CCG and the local authority, to focus groups with refugees and asylum seekers, or at freshers fair in Gateshead College (which made me feel very old), my time has been diverse and varied. I stood alongside colleagues and Champions for hours on a freezing cold Sunday in January with a howling gale blowing during the Chinese New Year celebrations in the centre of Newcastle.

These are strange days but the Healthwatch team has responded in its usual constructive and flexible style by moving seamlessly (almost anyway) into homeworking and continuing to work with local communities and our stakeholders to ensure that we continue to provide information, support and a voice whilst the current unusual circumstances prevail.

I will be taking up a new post as Public Involvement and Community Engagement Manager with the ARC (Applied Research Collaboration) in the North East and North Cumbria (https://tinyurl.com/y7bt3ayx). So, I will continue to be involved with service users, carers and community groups helping to deliver ‘Better, fairer health and care at all ages and in all places’. I wish you all well and hope our paths cross again in the future.”


Help us help the NHS

Calling all 11—20 year olds in Newcastle and Gateshead! Help us to help the NHS.

We want to find out about your experiences of GP, dentist, hospital, optician and sexual health services. Help us to help the NHS, so that together we can have health services that are young people friendly.

Your feedback will also contribute to a wider consultation that Children North East is making on poverty-proofing health settings. Please respond by the end of April.

Take the survey at https://tinyurl.com/YPfriendlyservices


COVID-19 information and support

There is a lot of information out there about coronavirus and COVID-19. Unfortunately, not all the information is correct or accurate, and some of the incorrect advice is potentially dangerous. The government and the NHS are asking that people use official and reliable sources of information.

To help you, we’ve put together a list of useful information to help you during the COVID—19 (coronavirus) outbreak.

More can be found on our website at www.healthwatchnewcastle.org.uk/covid-19


Listen to us!

Enjoy this newsletter on the go by downloading our podcast at soundcloud.com/healthwatch-newcastle


Tune in to ‘Health matters’

During the pandemic period, we’re doing weekly shows all focused on various aspects of lockdown. So far, we’ve spoken to a pharmacist who works with the NHS 111 service, a primary school teacher and a parent of young children, a hypnotherapist, a psychologist and a men’s mental wellbeing advocate.

Because we are doing the shows remotely, you can’t call us but you can message us via the Spice FM Facebook page at www.facebook.com/spicefm

Join us next on Tuesday 28 March from 2pm to 4pm on 98.8 FM or listen online at www.spicefm.co.uk

Catch up with previous shows at https://soundcloud.com/spice_fm


Support for the most vulnerable in Newcastle

Around 1.4 million people have been identified by the government as being particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus due to health conditions. They are advised to stay at home and take special steps to protect themselves (known as shielding).

These people have been contacted directly by letter, text or email and asked to register for government support at www.gov.uk/coronavirus-extremely-vulnerable. Support includes help with food, shopping deliveries, prescriptions and any additional care that is needed.

Citylife Line also helps those most vulnerable residents in Newcastle. Citylife Line prioritises those people unless they are already being supported with a social care need. If you have an urgent support need, which requires a same-day response, call the helpline on 0191 277 8000.

Support is also available via an online form (urgent requests for food parcels or other items should not go through the form).

Find out more at https://tinyurl.com/citylifeline


NHS advice in other languages

Doctors of the World has the latest NHS advice in over 40 different languages at www.doctorsoftheworld.org.uk/coronavirus-information


Information in BSL

SignHealth publishes daily updates on COVID-19 in British Sign Language (BSL) at https://signhealth.org.uk/resources/coronavirus


Looking after your wellbeing at home

We know that staying at home for a prolonged period can be difficult, frustrating and lonely for some people and that you or other household members may feel low. It can be particularly challenging if you don’t have much space or access to a garden.

It’s important to remember to take care of your mind as well as your body. There are sources of support and information that can help, such as the Every Mind Matters website at www.nhs.uk/oneyou/every-mind-matters


Mental health support for young people

There’s free online mental health counselling and support service for young people in Newcastle and Gateshead. It’s for all young people aged 11—18, and for care leavers up until their 25th birthday.

Chat to counsellors and get support from the Kooth community. Counselling hours are Monday to Friday from 12pm to 10pm, and weekends from 6pm to 10pm.

Find out more at www.kooth.com


Concerned about safeguarding?

Safeguarding adults and children is everyone’s responsibility. Here are some contact numbers for Newcastle:
Adult Social Care — 0191 278 8377 (0191 278 7878 out of hours)
Children’s Social Care — 0191 277 2500 (0191 278 7878 out of hours)
Northumbria Police — 101 (in an emergency always dial 999)
Newcastle Integrated Domestic Violence Abuse Service — 0191 214 6501
Waltham Forest Council has produced a video on safeguarding awareness for volunteers during lockdown, which is useful for us all at https://youtu.be/HHQG8CJROhU


Working from home?

North East Counselling Services has a webinar to support people with their mental health while working from home at https://tinyurl.com/rodkg6k