A new report out today, from public and patient engagement specialists Evolving Communities, reveals people’s experiences of health and social care during the first six months of Covid-19 in Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset.

It highlights common issues people have faced and how these have changed over time and identifies the challenges and achievements of a health and social care sector turned upside down by the pandemic.

Between April and September 2020, Evolving Communities worked with its local Healthwatch services in Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset, to gather feedback about how health and care services were adapting to the pandemic and what impact this was having on how people were receiving care.  The report combines feedback from all three Healthwatch areas, providing valuable insight about the impact of Covid-19 on health and care across the south west.

345 people shared their experiences through online surveys.  The report focuses on the top four most talked about services: GPs, pharmacies, hospitals, and dentists.  It highlights where changes to services have worked well and where improvements could be made.

GPs

  • Many people have embraced the use of online and telephone appointments, but this should not be used exclusively as it may not be appropriate for everyone.
  • Those who were shielding appreciated regular contact from their GP.
  • People want to be kept up to date about when normal services will be resuming.
  • People generally felt safe when they had to go to their GP, and there was a lot of praise and appreciation for the staff.

Pharmacies

  • Many people appreciated the safety measures put in place by pharmacies.
  • At the start of lockdown there were long queues, which was problematic for those who were elderly or unable to stand for long periods of time.
  • Vulnerable people appreciated their prescription being delivered, however there were some issues with delays to delivery.
  • Moving to online ordering of prescriptions was welcomed by many, but there were reports of prescriptions getting lost between GP and pharmacy systems.

Hospitals

  • Many people had experienced delays and cancellations to their care.  While understandable, people wished to be kept informed about when care was likely to be resumed.
  • People appreciated having telephone consultations and follow-up appointments, as well as the opportunity to telephone their consultants for any questions they had.
  • Those who had attended the hospital were happy with the level of safety and cleanliness.  However, a small amount of people felt that they did not want to return to hospitals, due to safety concerns.

Dentists

  • Many people had experienced delays to treatment or cancellations of appointments with no indication of when they would be resumed.
  • People are worried about the consequences of missing check-ups.
  • Telephone appointments were useful for those with issues that could be treated with antibiotics.
  • Many had difficulty in accessing urgent dental care.

Information

People also reported that information was lacking about shielding, Covid-19 symptoms, testing, guidance for carers, and updates on when services would be back to normal, as well as a lack of information on non-digital formats.

Throughout the first six months of the pandemic, Evolving Communities local Healthwatch teams shared real-time feedback with local health and social care providers, to help them respond quickly.  They have now reported locally on feedback over six months, to help services deliver effective care, now as they manage a rise in Covid-19 cases while trying to catch up with a backlog of treatments, and in the future as new models of care are developed.

Evolving Communities Head of Research and Insight, Dr Sara Nelson, said:  “This is a good and timely point to reflect on how Covid-19 has affected people’s experiences of health and social care.  In response to unprecedented circumstances, NHS and social care providers have had to rapidly introduce new and modified models of health and care delivery.  Our report reveals that changes have worked better for some people than for others.  While we celebrate the enormous achievements of our health and care sector, it is important that services continue to listen and understand patient and public feedback so that they can adapt and deliver more effective care for everyone going forward.”

Read the full Evolving Communities report, including people’s feedback comments:
People’s experiences of health and social care during the COVID-19 pandemic: A Dorset, Gloucestershire and Somerset perspecitive

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