Healthwatch Bucks turns 10 years old this week. During the past decade, we’ve heard thousands of stories from people in our community about health and social care – feedback that’s helped us make a difference to how local services are run.

To mark this special birthday, we want to celebrate the work we’ve done, the people who have helped us make a difference and the impact we’ve had on local health and social care.

In this article, we highlight 10 of our proudest achievements so far.

1. Improving health outcomes for bereaved young people

Back in 2014, we worked with Child Bereavement UK to help a group of bereaved young people create a short film about their needs and experiences. The aim was for the film to help healthcare professionals understand how they could improve support for this vulnerable group.

This focus on amplifying the voices of people who use local health and social care services has continued, and remains a hallmark of everything we do at Healthwatch Bucks.

Children and young people’s access to and experiences of healthcare are a key priority for us in 2023/24.

2. Promoting Dignity in Care

Buckinghamshire Council commissioned Healthwatch Bucks to visit care homes across the county. We were asked to report back on how well services were ensuring the dignity of the people they looked after.

Over six years, Healthwatch Bucks staff and volunteers made 131 enter and view visits to Buckinghamshire care homes. These allowed us to celebrate good practice, as well as identify ways in which services could be improved.

During the Dignity in Care project, we saw many improvements in the care provided for local people. Most care homes now understand the importance of keeping residents physically and mentally engaged in their lives, and we saw a rise in the number of group activities available for people.

By making our reports available to the public, we helped families to make important decisions about the care their loved ones received.

3. Supporting ex-service men and women

In 2020, we worked with local ex-service men and women to understand the particular health and social care needs they might have, as well as ensure they were aware of the treatment options available to them.

We spoke to more than 150 veterans and family members. We found that many weren’t aware of the specialist schemes and organisations that could support their health and social care. Awareness of Armed Forces and Veteran Friendly hospitals was low, as was understanding of the advantages of flagging yourself as an ex-service man or woman with your GP.

We helped veterans to learn more about their rights and helped those who needed it access appropriate support. Over the period we worked with veterans, the number flagged with local GPs went from fewer than 20 to almost 1000. Our work was highly commended at the annual Healthwatch England awards.

4. Making a difference to maternity care

Between 2017 and 2020, we heard from more than 1,400 women who shared their experiences of maternity care.

We asked about the care they received before and during the birth of their babies via an online survey, but also attended classes and social groups to ensure we heard from people in communities that aren’t always able to feed back on health and social care.

Our findings fed directly into the planning of future maternity care in the Thames Valley region.

5. Staying active during Covid-19

When Covid-19 struck, we realised immediately that – while we’d need to change the way Healthwatch Bucks worked – people would be more reliant on us than ever.

As the pandemic unfolded, we became a reliable source of trusted information on how to stay safe. People called us, emailed us and visited our website in their thousands.

We made sure that accurate updates on local services were available and helped to minimise panic, at the same time as collecting and sharing feedback on how health and social care services were affected by the virus.

6. Supporting the Covid-19 vaccine effort

As Covid-19 vaccination centres were set up, we saw a huge increase in requests for information. Local people wanted to know more about how to get the vaccinations and how they worked.

We set up a survey to capture people’s views on the vaccine rollout – one of the most important public health initiatives in living memory. In February and March 2021, we heard from 3, 338 people who had the Covid-19 vaccination and 118 who chose not to.

The feedback we received on the vaccination programme in Bucks was overwhelmingly positive. However, we were able to make useful recommendations on the provision of information about what to expect at a vaccine appointment, how to book an alternative site and how people with medical conditions could access advice on which type of vaccine would best suit them.

7. Raising the profile of social prescribing

In 2022, we asked: ‘Have you heard of a service called social prescribing?’

After completing two research projects on the topic – one on awareness of social prescribing and another on experiences of it – we found that while few people in Buckinghamshire understood what was on offer, those who received support from a social prescriber were generally very happy with it.

Our recommendations for raising the profile of social prescribing – and ensuring it worked for Buckinghamshire residents – were gratefully received by the Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board (BOB ICB) and Buckinghamshire Council.

8. Highlighting the needs of people living with young onset dementia

Young onset dementia is diagnosed when people first experience symptoms before the age of 65. This means people living with the condition often need quite different support to that made available for older people.

Our 2022 research project highlighted how local services could improve the provision of information and support for Buckinghamshire residents with young onset dementia. Its recommendations were accepted by both BOB ICB and Buckinghamshire Council.

9. Helping people complain when something’s gone wrong

We’re here to help if something goes wrong when you use a service.

Our complaints guide, built up over the past 10 years, will help you to understand your rights, work out how to make a complaint and ensure you send it to the right place.

We also offer independent advocacy services to those who need them.

10. A decade of successful signposting

Since our inception, Healthwatch Bucks has been here to help local residents get the right health and social care.

Our feedback centre, which allows people to give their own ratings and reviews on local providers, is a key resource for Buckinghamshire residents who are looking for information on services.

Over the past decade, we’re proud to have helped thousands of people find and access the services they need through our telephone signposting service, email and the signposting centre on our website.

 

Published on 28 Mar, 2023

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