Responding to the health and social care needs of people during lockdown
Healthwatch Birmingham and Healthwatch Solihull are committed to reducing health inequalities. Whilst our health and social care staff continue with dedicated service delivery, there is a high level of concern about the number of people whose treatments have been delayed due to the pandemic. This is particularly the case at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB). We have recently worked closely with UHB to develop patient letters whilst they await treatment. Also, our has influenced changes to the use of digital technology and improved access to appointments.
People responding to a Healthwatch Birmingham and Healthwatch Solihull survey during lockdown expressed concerns about:
· Lack of availability of services across health and social care providers
· Communication about delayed consultations, assessments and referrals
· Improvements that need to be made to appointment booking systems, telephone consultations and face-to-face consultations.
We aim to support the restoration and recovery of services by highlighting areas which were challenging for service users. Those 364 people that shared their experiences in the survey demonstrated a mixed experience throughout the pandemic, highlighting that whilst some changes suited the needs of some users, others were left behind. As we move out of the pandemic, services need to be restored in a fair and equal way.
Whilst some changes have increased support for individuals, there are important considerations in the development of the Integrated Care system and how Birmingham and Solihull recover from the Pandemic.
“Whilst health and social care face challenges as a result of the pandemic, with the development of the Integrated Care System there is a real opportunity to work differently to improve services for Birmingham and Solihull citizens. Central to this is to recover from the pandemic as a fairer society, focused on reducing the widening inequalities we see. The use of citizen feedback and patient experiences needs to be central to future delivery changes, understanding the ongoing impact on those most likely to experience inequality. Healthwatch Birmingham is committed to ensuring the voice of our citizens has a lasting change on future services.”
Andy Cave, CEO.
Healthwatch Birmingham and Healthwatch Solihull
In the ongoing development of health and social care, system leaders need to work together to overcome the ongoing impact of the pandemic. We ask for:
· Waiting lists for treatment are prioritised in a fair and equal manor, ensuring patients get the support they need while they wait, with improved information about self-care and condition management.
· Communication with patients is regular with a range of access points for updates about their care.
· Whilst many innovative and digital solutions were implemented during the pandemic, these solutions do not work for everyone. Ongoing changes to access routes or services delivery need to ensure they do not cause further inequalities to emerge.
We would like to thank everyone who completed the survey to share their views. We are always keen to hear people’s feedback on the health and social care services they use. Please visit our Healthwatch Solihull or Healthwatch Birmingham Centreonline Feedback Centre to tell us what you think.