In its latest Annual Report, Together we’re making health and social care better, Healthwatch Somerset highlights how it has listened to Somerset residents and shared their feedback to help NHS and social care decision makers prioritise the issues that matter most to local people.
Healthwatch Somerset published six reports last year about the improvements people would like to see to local services. Here are some of the main ways patient and public feedback was used to shape health and care in Somerset.
Making it easier to get healthcare information and support via GP websites: Healthwatch Somerset’s recommendations, based on public feedback and research, are being used by NHS Somerset to inform their work around improving digital services. This includes making GP websites easier to use so that people can find information; developing online consultations as a helpful way to speak to GPs and other health professionals; promoting use of the NHS App to help people manage their health and wellbeing; and working with community partners to train and support people to use digital technology. (Read the report)
Improving care when patients are transferred from hospital to be cared for at home or in the community: Healthwatch Somerset made several recommendations to improve patient experience, mainly around the need for better communication, preparation, and support. Somerset NHS and other organisations involved in the transfer to care process have used the recommendations to inform their ongoing development work, which has already seen the introduction of a new discharge lounge at Musgrove Park Hospital to make it easier for patients to leave hospital when they are ready, and new Ready to Go Units in hospitals to support patient rehabilitation while they wait to leave hospital. (Read the report)
Advocating for better NHS dental care: Throughout the year, Healthwatch Somerset reported to the NHS Local Dental Network about public feedback on dental care in Somerset and the South West. This data is being used to make sure patient voice informs decisions about the development of NHS dental care in the South West. (Read the reports)
Monitoring and improving the quality of care homes: As part of its partnership working with Somerset Council and the Care Quality Commission to support quality monitoring of residential care homes in the county, Healthwatch Somerset visited three care homes to speak to people about their experiences of using the services. (Read the report)
Healthwatch Somerset also announced four new projects it will be working on during 2023-24:
- Improving mental health support for young people
- Reducing the barriers people face when accessing services (GP appointments)
- Tackling health inequalities (access to NHS dental care and support for oral health)
- Improving intermediate care (short-term care that helps people recover after illness or hospital).
Announcing the annual report, Judith Goodchild, Chair of the Healthwatch Somerset Board, said: “This has been an exceptional year for Healthwatch Somerset, as the new Integrated Care Board (ICB) took over responsibility for health and social care in the county and our two NHS Trusts merged to form Somerset NHS Foundation Trust. During this time of significant change, we have made sure that the public voice is at the heart of health and care development work in Somerset. We have independently supported the ICB’s public engagement and consultation work and, through our own projects, we have investigated some of the issues that matter most to local people, including access to GPs, the use of digital technology in healthcare, and support for people as they leave hospital to be cared for at home or in the community.
“I want to thank everyone who has shared their feedback and worked with us to help shape health and care in Somerset; it’s vital we that we stay connected and collaborate so that we can continue to create positive change.”
Read the full Healthwatch Somerset Annual Report 2022-23 to find out more.