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Healthwatcher Blog

The Croydon Healthwatcher Blog takes a current issue that has come up either through our research or in response to changes in services and discusses this with reference to wider sources.

It’s a great way of getting to understand some of the challenges and how they might be responded to.

March 2022

Gaining patient insight on GP access to deliver best practice

Gordon Kay, Healthwatch Croydon Manager

Working with your local Healthwatch can have significant benefits especially about hearing from seldom heard on their experience of using services. Here we share some good principles that helped enable insight about the experience of GP access in London.

In December 2020, the Healthy London Partnership (HLP),
comprised of Clinical Commissioning Groups, NHS England,
Health Education England, Public Health, and local
the government wanted to partner with a local London
Healthwatch to assess their new guide for on GP’s access
across London.

We bid for the project based on our experience working in
one of London’s largest and most diverse boroughs with over
50% non-white British population– it is said over 90
languages are spoken. It also has larger than average
cohorts of both young and old.

We arranged an eight-person focus group to hear
experiences of GP access to ensure that a patient
perspective and experience was reflected in guidance that
would be sent to over 1200 GP surgeries across London,
serving a population of 8 million. We also assessed the guide
and the handbook from the perspective. Changes were made
in responses to the collected feedback, and this was then

There were some underlying principles that made this
engagement successful and which I believe could be applied
to any engagement work run by the NHS.

Being open was perhaps the most important principle. It was
clear from our first conversation that the Partnership was
open to hearing patient views and experiences
unconditionally. This is so important in bringing trust.
Knowing that there were no other underlying agendas
enabled us to create trust with patients and confidence that
they would be heard. Sadly, in many cases, patients and
service users are asked to give their views to fit an agenda,
but this was far from the case here. A willingness to hear and
not to judge was very important.

Compared with other projects, we had to move very quickly
and held the focus group within two weeks as we had the
Christmas break between confirmation of bid. We had
several good planning meetings that ensured both sides’
expectations were understood from day one. It also meant
we knew exactly what we needed to do, as deep seas divers
say, we ‘planned our dive and dived our plan’. Putting the
time and effort in early helped ensure we got the results we

Having a guide and documentation which we could share in
advance ensured we had something to focus on. Too often,
engagement is set around large slide decks presented
hurriedly on the night and usually taking up half the session,
and then a rushed and directed second half that is described
as engagement. In this case, all participants had information
in advance and had one-to-one discussions with Healthwatch
to ensure they understood the information and what was
expected. This meant they came fully prepared to engage
and encourage good conversation on the issues.
Defined roles and transparency.

It was clear from the beginning that we were hosting this as
an independent organisation from the NHS but under grant
funding. We chaired and led the event but asked the GP
Lead to present introduction sections for the Partnership and
to be in attendance so they could see what was discussed.
This clarity and consistency helped bring trust and
confidence to the attendees that they would be heard.

This was another crucial aspect. We did record the event but
said it would not be made public. The video would be shared
with professional transcribers who would provide a full script
but with all names and personal details removed so
anonymity was maintained. This again encouraged openness
and frankness.

There is always a challenge in taking notes while attending
the meeting. Too often it is left to one or two people to take
notes, but sometimes the subtly can be lost. For four years
now, we have used professional transcription. While there is
a cost, it is more efficient and effective to use professionals
in the field than asking your staff to do it. In my experience
writing up notes is about the least favourite task, especially of
those who prefer talking to people. This also meant nothing
is lost and supported our transparency. We then analysed
the script, which became the basis for our

Showing and promoting impact
Part of the deal was that they would report back on the
changes made to show evidence of impact back to our
attendees and the wider population. You can see our final
report shows this in the statement from the project sharing
that impact is crucial in completing the feedback loop and
ensuring confidence for people to want to engage again.
Using the principles above there have shown to work well,
both the Partnership and we are happy about how it has
progressed. If more work could follow these principles, it
would increase confidence and impact. Good engagement
leads to better engagement in future; it is like an upward
spiral – let’s work together to make this happen.


You can see our report here:

View the guide here:

You can view the video here where we presented our insight her – we are 39 minutes or see other webinars here:

View the blog on the NHS Future Engagement Website here: Please note you will need to register to see the article.


August 2020

Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans

That famous line by John Lennon could not be truer when considering 2020 for health and social care system in Croydon. Back in January, we were told that the plans for a reorganisation of Clinical Commissioning Groups to larger groups would work for places like Croydon since it would cut administration and at least 90% of budget and decision-making would be delegated at Croydon level. We recorded the plans quite clearly in our South West London Merger discussions with the Croydon CCG.

Speed on six months and due to the impact of COVID-19, the planned model has been turned on its head. Rather than decisions being taken almost completely at Croydon level, or ‘place’ as the NHS likes to call it, a command and control procedure is in place, where much of the decision-making is being decided centrally at NHS England and then delegated to what was called STP (sustainability and transformation plan) level and now has been renamed ICS (integrated care networks) or as we understand it, South West London NHS.

For Healthwatch, this has put a new challenge to extend to our revised remit. Not only are we aiming to share analysis as soon as we can (see my previous blog in July), but now we have had to work out how we can best represent ourselves at this new South West London level  since we are commissioned at Croydon level.

As mentioned before, all six local Healthwatches are working together to find a solution on how 1.2 million people who live in six quite different boroughs can be adequately represented and decision-making scrutinised. While this was important before COVID19 began, it has magnified now that it seems that more decision-making is happening at the South West London level, that at Croydon. We are doing our best to scrutinise what is happening and find a representative solution where the insight on services can inform our views on changes.

There are of course significant changes and challenges ahead: from digital services in both your local doctors, community services and for outpatients at hospitals, to managing services in those physical locations to protect people from COVID19 when they need to be in a physical location to get the care they need. Then there is the risk of an outbreak and how that can be handed. In all of this is it understandable that scrutiny, representation, insight and patient and service user involvement might be a secondary priority.

And yet positive things are happening. Croydon Health Services is outlining its plans for it People’s Experience, Engagement & Involvement Group, and the Integrated Care Network plus , delivering care at the neighbourhood mode has been launched in Thornton Heath (bringing health, social care and signposting in one location, both physically at Gillet Road and online). We provided insight about this planned change before COVID19, and we are having positive discussions with both about how they can best engage with their local communities and get patients involved.

Our challenge is how we support this. Another positive aspect of this is that Healthwatch is now one of the go-to organisations to provide insight. Indeed, we are being asked to provide more on several areas both within health and social cares and invited to more discussion As a result we are currently running surveys on the experience of residents in care homes, as well as asking family and friends what they think, and staff as well. We are also about the begin a survey tracking the experience of Croydon’s shielding service. All of this will help provider prepare and maintain a good service based on service user insight, in time for the autumn, which may bring new challenges.

We raised some months ago the issue of mental health and are pleased to be involved in a few discussions with commissioners on how we can provide relevant insight to help decision-making. Our Croydon College student-led project on mental health and COVID19 is now being analysed and I hope we will be able to share some insights in September which again will provoke discussion on how

services can meet needs.

Of course, this brings its own challenges in make priorities in what we want to focus on. While we have made our outline plan for this year, see last blog, we are now starting the process for the next one with our Annual Survey <see link>>. Please fill it in and give us your views on what we are doing and suggestions of what we can focus as we plan for the coming year. While we cannot predict what will happen (this year so much more than most) or plans can at least ensure we keep on track in representing the views, needs and ideas of you, the people of Croydon.

July 2020

This year is going to be defined by the recovery of health and social care services in response to COVID-19. While it has had a massive impact for all involved, it has revealed some interesting insights into our use and expectations of services that can help define them in the future, as well as creating opportunities of real public involvement.

At Healthwatch Croydon, we are focused on delivering our services to you, the Croydon public, as best as possible. Reporting not just on the impact of COVID-19 but on raising other key themes that have come from conversations and insight, as well as an assessment of the changes taking place. Here is an overview of what we have done so far and plans for 2020-21.

Responding to COVID-19

Healthwatch Croydon have also had to respond to this change, with a revised mandate from Healthwatch England prioritising sharing patient experience more swiftly and increased signposting. All this happening when we are delivering the service from our homes.

Our response has been to ensure we could meet the challenge of producing reports that could be shared in stakeholders in a matter of weeks, rather than our usual months. Twice our record for getting a report compiled and shared with our stakeholders was broken.

I would like to thank all those key stakeholders at the hospital, in primary care, in Croydon Council and in the voluntary and community sector, who have been open to all our reports, not just our recent COVID-19 responses. Our recommendations are being considered and we are also being invited to new conversations, where we can continue to influence and provide insight from you, the residents of Croydon.


Where to focus our efforts?

Our challenge is, and has always been, where we can focus our activity to have the greatest benefit. Should be proactively looking at areas where services, or the people they are there for, have been overlooked? Or reactive to the pace of real change taking place, which has now shifted gear with the recently published aims of recovery? 

The answer, of course, is both. Things were already developing before COVID, with the further development of One Croydon and integrated care networks, an established, place-based leader for health and the merger of our local clinical commissioning group into a wider South West London NHS group.  This creates opportunities for new ways of working, which need insight from the public. We are also aware that some people have not had their voices heard on services that mean the most to them and we will look to provide relevant insight where we can. 


Our initial plans for 2020-21

Before COVID-19 began, we are looking to prioritise our work around four themes:

  • Croydon University Hospital: As it has a large impact on Croydon residents and with the change taking place in response to the CQC inspections, we can provide relevant insight to support improvements.


  • Mental health: We have received several reports about people’s concerns about access to effective mental health support.


  • Primary and community health services: Ensuring continued conversation with residents to contributes to the major changes of One Croydon and the Integrated Care Networks+ implementation.


  • Social care: Enable resident insight to inform decision-making on services in a challenging environment. It also addresses an imbalance in our focus in recent years.


In this new environment, we have used these themes to help consider new project proposals. Some of the ideas we are currently considering are as follows:

  • The quality of support that shielded people have had and what they need going forward. 
  • The experiences of care home residents.
  • Ensuring that the views of local people are considered in service redesign or review.
  • Working with the other South West London Healthwatches and the NHS across to ensure that the views of local people are considered as the NHS recovery programme begins with proposals to make temporary changes permanent. 
  • Keeping informed about the impact of COVID 19 on BAME and learning disability communities and provide relevant insight to support services.

From what we have heard from discussions with key stakeholders, It is expected that this phase health and social care service recovery will exist well until next year, but within that time there could be significant developments and proposals in how services are delivered. We will be keeping a close eye on changes and will respond accordingly. 

This may mean that some of the above ideas progress and others do not. Prior to undertaking any further projects, the board will complete the prioritisation matrix to identify which projects should be taken forward. This will be regularly published on our website in the coming months in response to decisions and developments, so you can see our rationale for taking projects forward.


Give us your views

Of course, we could not do any of this without the views we get from you, the people of Croydon. While we may not be able to meet you physically face-to-face, we will be running several surveys, online events, and other ways of engaging with us. We also offer a ring back service, so if you know someone not digitally connected who wants to give their views they can always call our hub to give their views or give their survey responses over the phone. Please call us and give us your views.

Keep well, keep informed and keep in touch.

May 2020

How are Croydon residents are being affected by COVID-19?

Like many organisations, the coronavirus pandemic has affected how we do our work. As I mentioned in our video, we have adjusted our focus in line with Healthwatch England advice. Our priorities are now providing Croydon residents with the most up-to-date information and also to hear their views on experiencing services during this period.

Keeping well and keeping informed

Last week, we shared with key stakeholders our first report on the experiences of Croydon residents as a result of the wide changes due to coronavirus. The results of the first 63 people were interesting and wide ranging. In terms of information, most are relying on official national sources of information such as and and the BBC, with local sources not being viewed as much.

This is interesting because later on residents clearly want to know about support which could be available here and so perhaps more focus is needed to promote local sources of information and ensure they are up-to-date. In response to this, we have produced our useful Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) document which has been compiled over recent weeks. This downable guide developed in partnership with Croydon Voluntary Action will provide resident with useful information in one place. We will ensure it is updated every two or so weeks, as the situation changes.

Some Croydon residents have been significantly affected. These are some of the issues we have heard:

Getting food

We heard that some residents were having difficulty getting food, due to a lack of delivery slots, problems in queuing due to a disability and being scared of people not abiding by the two-metre social distancing rule in supermarkets and on public transport. We know that community and voluntary services are working hard to support people, but the profile of these services needs better promotion. There is also confusion on who qualifies for assistance and who doesn’t and what support there maybe who are not the most vulnerable. People want to have their expectations met, and this needs careful and clear messaging.

Accessing healthcare

There is confusion on whether people can visit their GP, and if they have specific long-term conditions can access their usual support at all. There are also those needing to access services such as emergency dentistry, ear syringing and podiatry which, while are not life-threatening, do affect quality of life if they are not resolved. Are these now available? I know our local NHS has provided more information this week on accessing GP and 111 for information, but clearly more information is needed. For example, I found out by chance in a meeting that emergency dentistry can be accessed via 111.

Being social isolated now…

This is really taking a toll on residents: from missing the social aspects of work or volunteering; to being distanced from friends and family and feeling trapped and lonely. Some are even concerned that they may die without being able to say goodbye. We believe that there needs to be some practical support to alleviate the isolation, including inexpensive ways for people to connect be it WhatsApp, Zoom, Skype or even a straight-forward phone call. Helpful information to support mental health could also be included.

…and the longerterm impact?

As we move forward out of lockdown, it is clear we are going to need more mental health support. While local services set up to support people during lockdown have done much to support physical needs, the mental and emotional ones are clearly going to be around for sometime after. These early comments should serve as a taste of things to come. What are service providers planning now to ensure demand for support to be met? It’s likely that things will not go back to how things were before.

Challenging finances and families

Not unsurprisingly financial concerns were high on people’s minds with concerns about lack of work, pay, benefits and paying rent. Children and families have been affected, adjusting to home schooling which can be difficult if you do not have reliable broadband. Some families all together in cramped locations with parents out of work, and limited access to green space, as well as missing friends.

These again only contribute to some further stress and impact on mental health state. Differing information on how and where to get support only makes this more complex. Clearer, accessible information is need to show how people can get support.

Local insight

While much of this has been mentioned at a national scale in media and parliament, it is useful to hear the particular issues of Croydon residents – and this is only the start. What we have heard so far is from the first 63, since then we have received nearly 200 more responses, which we are analysing for our second report in a few weeks time. This survey will continue throughout this time, so we will be able to see how you, as Croydon residents, feel about all the local initiatives taking place and hear how they impact you as we move to the next phase, whatever and whenever, that may be.

During this time, you can be sure that Healthwatch Croydon will ensure your voices are heard with those who can make the changes. Indeed, our first report has already had responses from key stakeholders and we plan to provide more.

We cannot do this without your views though, so please keep in touch by filling in our survey and telling us your experiences good or not so good – we need to know, or you can call our number or email us.

Keep well, keep informed and keep in touch,

Gordon Kay

Healthwatch Croydon Manager

September 2019

You may have heard that Croydon’s NHS organisations are proposing and planning changes to the way they work. There is in fact so much change going on it is hard to keep up, and that is said by someone working in the sector. How it must come over to you as Croydon residents I am not quite sure. So, here is my perspective to help you understand what’s going on.


The Long term Plan influences all

In January, NHS England created their Long Term Plan. At over 120 pages it is a weighty document, but has an ambitious vision particularly towards integrated care and population health, individual plans on key conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease and mental health and a focus on digital to deliver services.. You can read a digest by the Kings Fund here. To deliver this, structures need to change as well, so the development of Primary Care Networks and Integrated Care Networks have been proposed to deliver this (see more below). For these networks to be adequately supported, NHS England and NHS Improvement have proposed that CCGs merge together to streamline commissioning (buying and planning) arrangements and release resource to invest in these new networks at a more local neighbourhood level.


Local impact

So how is this changing things in Croydon? Firstly, there is the development of the Health and Care Plan. This has been developed by the One Croydon Alliance which is made up of representatives of the NHS Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) who plan and buy health services for Croydon, Croydon Health Services NHS Trust (hospital and community services provider), South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (mental health services provider), the GP collaborative (which represents nearly all Croydon GPs) Croydon Council, and Age UK Croydon and is the blueprint for delivering services in the borough. You may have seen an iteration published for discussion in May which we as Healthwatch Croydon encouraged contribution of views to. I am glad to say our comments were taken seriously and we hope the final version will reflect resident’s points when it is published shortly. This plan holds to the principles laid out in the national Long Term Plan and indeed anticipated many of them as it was being devised in advance.

One of the core structural changes to enable this plan to succeed are the establishment of Primary Care Networks (PCNs) where local doctors collectively work together to deliver services at a neighbourhood area. While each GP practice will hold a direct contract with NHS England and NHS Improvement, the idea is that GPs work together at the neighbourhood level which they define as between 30,000 and 50,000 people. These wil be part of Integrated Care Networks, where other NHS organisations, local councils and the voluntary sector work with local doctors to deliver services at the local neighbourhood level.

One Croydon had anticipated these new structures and so the Croydon Health and Care Plan already meets these expectations and can move swiftly to delivery. This creates the opportunity for health services to be delivered to better meet local people’s needs, but the devil is in the detail. We are in discussions with the CCG and Croydon Council in helping to define where and how patient representation and involvement is placed within these new structures, as they are set up. We plan to take on some insight work working with One Croydon partners later in the year which will influence these new structures.


Increased partnership

Meanwhile Croydon Health Services NHS Trust and NHS Croydon Clinical Commissioning Group have agreed a joint working partnership in May of which you can read more about here. They are still separate organisations and will remain so but have created joint committees-in-common to work together on issues such as quality, planning and finance. The CCG will still hold the planning and buying function but will work closer as a unit with the hospital and community services trust. The benefit is that it reduces the impact of the buyer-provider split which has existed for about 20 years, where one part of the system bought the service from another. As I understand it lot of administrative time was spent between the two organisations negotiating with each other when they could have been working together.  A good example of this is quality which is now headed by a Joint Chief Nurse, rather than two directors in each organisation. Their performance will still be assessed by committees with independent non-executive directors, wider joint committees and of course NHS England and NHS Improvement. It is intended that a committee-in-common will become the core Croydon committee responsible for delivering Croydon’s hospital and community health services, working with the wider One Croydon Board which is about health and social services and has a remit beyond just health. I have been assured that Healthwatch Croydon will have a place on this committee to ensure independent patient and resident representation is included.


Merging CCGs

If all of this was not enough, Croydon CCG is proposing to merge into one South West London CCG, also known as an Integrated Care System (ICS).  This has been seen as potentially controversial since it could be seen as a shift of power away from Croydon. Having had a number of discussions with key people involved, this is something that has been mandated by NHS England and Improvement, but how it is delivered is down to the local CCGs to decide.  In South West London, the importance of ‘place’ such Croydon is seen as important by the leadership who want to delegate as much money and therefore power to the place, reflecting that Croydon, Richmond, Kingston, Sutton, Wandsworth and Merton are very different boroughs with different needs.  All other areas of England are going through the same process but not necessarily with the same delegation as South West London. In some cases, more resources will held more centrally at the ICS level.

Of course, for Healthwatch Croydon, this provides both challenges and opportunities. Challenges in that some aspects of the new organisational structure will mean we have to define Healthwatch representation at a South West London level. I can assure you we are exploring ways to ensure that all Healthwatches in South West London can work together effectively to support representation at this level. In terms of opportunities, we have already confirmed representation on all the key Croydon organisations from the CCG Governing Body to Croydon Health NHS Trust Board, as well as Health and Wellbeing and Health and Social Care Scrutiny and One Croydon Transformation, as well as now being invited to contribute to a number of subgroups around proactive health and quality.

It should be remembered that our role is to influence, using our independent insight, to help those delivering services to remember the patient in the decision-making. We cannot do what we do without you and your views. So, get involved, challenge us with your ideas and views and together we can help make services in Croydon accountable to resident’s needs and also feed that back at a South West London level.

Gordon Kay, Healthwatch Croydon Manager

December 2018

Working with the Croydon Healthwatch Team provided me with invaluable skills and knowledge. Most notably, one of the skills I had developed from this experience was the ability to approach citizens and ensuring the “15 seconds” of their attention was enough for them to proceed with asking for their opinion on Croydon’s health service. Another skill I had developed from this experience was listening and expressing people’s ideas, as well as taking notes to ensure their view was fully represented. The awareness of how government funding is divided up for the different health services was interesting to find out because it provided a better explanation for the reason some services perform better than others. The beautiful thing about Healthwatch is that it accepts our medical services are not perfect, and they wish to improve things by using the voices of the people as navigation to better medical services in Croydon. Although, it was quite upsetting to hear some of the stories told by the people I was speaking to, and I could tell they were extremely hurt from their experience with health services – I hope that by spreading awareness of Croydon Healthwatch more people can know their feedback is valued and that services such as Healthwatch need to know these things so that more can be done to protect these people. It was truly an honour to work with the Croydon Healthwatch team, they were very kind and a joy to work with, they treated me as though I was a part of the team and valued the contributions I had given throughout the day.

Thank you for the experience,

Kind regards,

Nathan Bigord

June 2021

Healthwatch Croydon has released a new report looking at the experiences of Care Home Residents, Staff and Friends and Family during the Pandemic, as a result there will be a new action plan defined to help improve experiences. 


New action plan for Croydon’s care homes based on residents, family, and staff experience

  • Croydon Council have defined a new action plan to support Croydon’s 127 care homes based on residents, staff, and friends and family insight from first COVID lockdown.
  • Most residents had a good experience and staff knew how to cope and where to get help. Many friends and family felt they could have a phone call or video with residents and felt informed by the care homes.
  • Some residents felt isolated with limited social activities and no friends or family to contact them. Many staff felt they needed more mental health support and more recognition for the work they do. For some families, there was sometimes inconsistent communication.

Read the full Press Release and Report here>>>

June 2021

Opt-out of GP Patient Data Collection – extended until September 2021

A project which allows patients to opt-out of having details of their GP medical records shared for health research and planning has been extended, meaning patients now have until September to opt-out.

Why would the NHS want to share patient data?

The data held in the GP medical records of patients is used every day to support health and care planning and research in England, helping to find better treatments and improve patient outcomes for everyone.

NHS Digital is the national custodian for health and care data in England and has responsibility for standardising, collecting, analysing, publishing and sharing data and information from across the health and social care system, including general practice.

View video here:

What the data will be used for?

The data collected is used to help support the planning and commissioning of health and care services, the development of health and care policy, public health monitoring and interventions (including coronavirus (COVID-19) and enable many different areas of research, for example:

·       Research the long-term impact of coronavirus on the population

·       Analyse healthcare inequalities

·       Research and develop cures for serious illnesses

What kind of patient data is shared?

This data will be shared from 1 September 2021 unless you choose to opt-out. Data may be shared from the GP medical records about:

  • any living patient registered at a GP practice in England when the collection started – this includes children and adults
  • any patient who died after 1 September 2021, and was previously registered at a GP practice in England when the data collection started

NHS Digital will collect:

  • data about diagnoses, symptoms, observations, test results, medications, allergies, immunisations, referrals, recalls and appointments, including information about physical, mental and sexual health
  • data on sex, ethnicity and sexual orientation
  • data about staff who have treated patients

NHS Digital will NOT collect:

  • name and address (except for postcode, protected in a unique coded form)
  • written notes (free text), such as the details of conversations with doctors and nurses
  • images, letters and documents
  • coded data that is not needed due to its age – for example, medication, referral and appointment data that is over 10 years old
  • coded data that GPs are not permitted to share by law – for example, certain codes about IVF treatment, and certain information about gender re-assignment

Can I opt out of my data being used?

Yes, if you don’t want your GP records to be collected or shared, you are able to opt out. You can find all the details for opting out here:

You will need to register a Type 1 Opt-out or a National Data Opt-out, or both. These opt-outs are different and they are explained in more detail below. Your individual care will not be affected if you opt-out using either option.

Type 1 Opt-out (opting out of NHS Digital collecting your data) – What does it mean?

NHS Digital will not collect data from GP practices about patients who have registered a Type 1 Opt-out with their practice. More information about Type 1 Opt-outs can be found here including a form that you can complete and send to your GP practice.

National Data Opt-out (opting out of NHS Digital sharing your data) – What does it mean?

NHS Digital will collect data from GP medical records about patients who have registered a National Data Opt-out. The National Data Opt-out applies to identifiable patient data about your health, which is called confidential patient information.

NHS Digital won’t share any confidential patient information about you – this includes GP data, or other data we hold, such as hospital data – with other organisations, unless there is an exemption to this. To find out more information and how to register a National Data Opt-Out, please read this notice.

Healthwatch England Response

Responding to the announcement today by Jo Churchill, Minister for Primary Care, on the Government’s plans around GP data, four leading patient groups – Healthwatch England, National Voices, the Patients Association and the Richmond Group of Charities – have released the following statement:

“We welcome today’s move by the Government to extend the deadline for the GP data opt-out and allow NHS Digital and colleagues across the NHS, particularly those in primary care, to have the time and space to engage properly with patients and the wider public on these plans.

“In previous engagement work the public have told us that they are in favour of the NHS using their data for medical research if they understand how this information will be used and can opt out if they so wish. However, ongoing public support for this depends on complete transparency and clear communication from the NHS when things change.

“Over the next few months we need to see a proper nationwide campaign on this, reaching out to people so they can make an informed choice about how their own individual medical records are used to support research. This is a complex issue, and so we will all be working with the NHS to help build awareness and understanding.”

Grey box

Information for patients in different formats:

Includes video, audio, braille and information in a variety of different languages about the scheme.


Your rights over your patient data

You can read more about the health and care information collected by NHS Digital, our legal basis for collecting it and your choices and rights in:


June 2021

Croydon residents have shared their experiences of the mental health impact of Covid-19, due to the work of young volunteers from Croydon College, which is published by Healthwatch Croydon today.

Within the report we found some key challenges that were experienced by young people including:


  • 60% said their mental health had been affected by the impact of COVID-19.
  • There is a gap, due to access or availability, between level of need and mental health support services.

Read the full report, via the reports section of our website >>>

May 2021

Dementia Action Week is 17 – 23 May 2021. Join in and take action to improve the lives of people affected by dementia. #CureTheCareSystem. If you have been affected by dementia and require support please call Dementia Connect support line on 0333 150 3456.


February 2021

Children and young people are being encouraged to explore different ways of expressing themselves for this year’s Children’s Mental Health Week (1-7 February).  


Run by children’s mental health charity Place2Be, Children’s Mental Health Week highlights the importance of looking after your wellbeing from an early age. This year’s theme is all about finding ways to share feelings, thoughts, or ideas, through creativity. This could be through art, music, writing and poetry, dance and drama, photography, and film, and doing activities that make you feel good. 


But it is important to remember that expressing yourself is not about being the best at something or putting on a performance for others. It is about finding a way to show who you are and how you see the world, that can help you feel good about yourself. 


Place2Be, which supplies counselling and mental health support and training in schools, believes that children should not have to face mental health problems alone, and highlights: 


  • Around three children in every primary school class have experienced a mental health problem, and many more struggle with challenges from bullying to bereavement.  
  • 1 in 6 children and young people have a diagnosable mental health condition. 
  • 50% of people with lifelong mental health problems first experience symptoms by the age of 14. 


Get involved 

With the majority of children at home due to the current Coronavirus lockdown, Place2Be will be holding a free online assembly discussing the theme of Children’s Mental Health Week and how children and young people can get involved at home. 


The assembly, hosted by Blue Peter’s Lindsey Russell and CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson, will be available to all schools and families on Monday 1 February.   

You can find out more and get free online resources to take part in Children’s Mental Health Week by visiting the website. 

February 2021

Throughout February we are celebrating LGBT+ History month. The purpose of LGBT+ History Month is to celebrate LGBT+ people in all their diversity, and in doing so, educate against prejudice.  


The purpose of LGBT+ History Month is to raise awareness of, and combat prejudice against, the LGBT+ community while celebrating its achievements and diversity and making it more visible. The LGBT+ community have made significant contributions to society, but there have been times where the community has been persecuted and discriminated against, rather than celebrated for their achievements. We want to shine a light on those achievements as representation and visibility matters. 


This February we will be demonstrating how far the LGBT+ community has come, but also how far it has yet to go as full equality has not yet been reached.  


Find out more below about the LGBT+ Community 



Covid-19 and LGBT+ Communities 


These are unprecedented times.  We are all doing our best to stay safe and keep our mental & physical health in check and protect our wellbeing.   

Sadly, the LGBT+ Community is disproportionately affected by the current pandemic, LGBT Foundation outlined the following: 


  • LGBT people, in particular older LGBT people, are more likely to be socially isolated & may lack contact or support. Some trans and non-binary people have had their HRT suspended & surgeries or appointments cancelled due to emergency measures. 
  • LGBT people are more likely to experience domestic abuse, which has risen since social isolation measures were introduced.  This might include being quarantined with LGBT- phobic families & lack of access to discreet support. 
  • LGBT people are more likely to have poor mental health & issues with substance misuse.  Many of these struggles may be worsened by having normal routines disrupted and lack of access to support. 



LGBT+ and Mental Health  


It is important to reach out if you are suffering with a Mental Health problem. Mental health problems such as depression or self-harm can affect any of us, but they’re more common among people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT).  


This may be linked to LGBT people’s experience of discrimination, homophobia or transphobia, bullying, social isolation, or rejection because of their sexuality. Other things, such as their age, religion, where they live, and their ethnicity can add extra complications to an already difficult situation. 


Talking with a therapist who’s trained to work with LGBT+ people may help. If you’re struggling to cope right now, contact Samaritans by visiting their website or call 116 123 (open 24 hours, every day) for support. 


The NHS have information available specifically for the LGBT+ community, you can find this information here.


Your GP and local health service are also here to help you. Services can be found via our Healthwatch Directory




The Rainbow flag  


Many people will be able to identify the rainbow flag and what it represents. The original rainbow flag was designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978 to represent the diversity of the LGBT+ community. Each of the colours represent things that are important for living well.


Red = Life  


Orange = Healing  


Yellow = Sunlight  


Green = Nature  


Indigo = Harmony  


Violet = Spirit  



In 2018 the Pride Flag was redesigned by Daniel Quasar. The five-coloured chevron was added to put greater emphasis on the need for inclusion and progression. The black and brown represent LGBT+ communities of Colour and the pink, blue and white represent the trans community. The shape of this section is like an arrow representing moving forward. The Pride Flag was redesigned to be more inclusive. 




Influential LGBT+ people from history  


This month we will be celebrating various influential LGBT+ people from history such as Maya Angelou, who embraced the LGBT+ community and on the fight for LGBT+ equality said, “I am aghast and appalled at any people who decide that another group should not have their rights. We are all each other’s people.”  


Head over to our social media channels to learn more about the LGBT+ community and celebrate their achievements past and present. 

January 2021

Covid-19 Local Testing Centre in Croydon Sports Arena car park

A letter from Croydon’s Public Health Director, Rachel Flowers.

I’m writing to let you know that the government will be setting up a second Covid-19 Local Testing Centre in our borough, at Croydon Sports Arena car park, off Albert Road, South Norwood.


Deloitte, who operate the site on behalf of the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC), has confirmed that they will arrive tomorrow (Thursday 28 January) to build the centre. It will open for a pilot session the following afternoon and from Saturday 30 January the centre will be fully operational, open 9am-8pm seven days a week.


Tomorrow, Belmont Road will be closed to enable construction vehicles to safely enter and exit the site during the build, however residents will still have access. Two parking bays will be suspended near the junction with Albert Road and three will be suspended near the junction with Portland Road, as well as two on Portland Road itself. These are temporary measures only, to allow the site build to take place.

Local Testing Centres are part of the National Test and Trace Programme for Covid-19. They are for people with any of the main Covid-19 symptoms to get tested, which helps to identify cases and prevent the virus from spreading among our community. Local Testing Centres are walk-through, which means that people can access them on foot or bicycle, and can be located much closer to local communities. The new centre will make it quicker and easier for residents in the north of the borough to get a test when they need one, including those without access to a car. Croydon’s first Local Testing Centre has been operating in Central Parade, New Addington, since September 2020. A regional testing site has also opened on Beddington Lane with capacity for 1800 tests per day.


The Arena site will operate on an appointment-only basis – tests must be booked in advance, online or by phoning 119.


DHSC has detailed operating procedures which have been signed off by Public Health England to ensure that health and safety is at the forefront, and there will be a number of measures in place including:


·       Social distancing measures: Those being tested will be required to follow Public Health measures, including social distancing, not travelling by taxi or public transport, going straight home after their test, practicing good hygiene and wearing a face covering throughout (including travelling to and from the centre). After booking their tests, people receive the full address and directions to their local testing site.


·       Personal protective equipment on site: Staff on site, who are required to interact with people being tested, are required to wear PPE. The on-site operational staff do not wear PPE as that is not required. These staff do not come into any contact with any test subjects.


·       Cleaning regime: There is a strict cleaning regime for the site which means that facilities are cleaned multiple times a day to ensure very high standards of hygiene. Waste is removed on a regular basis.


·       Designated areas: The testing areas are segregated from all other areas. All areas have been made to reduce the disturbances to local communities and only operational staff will be in the area of the testing site.


You can watch a video about Local Testing Sites and how they work here:


Croydon Council will be working closely with Deloitte, who operate the site for the government, to ensure that any disruption is kept to a minimum. Deloitte will also work with our partners at Oasis Academy Arena and GLL to ensure that pupils, staff and visitors have safe access to the school and to Croydon Sports Arena at all times. If you have any concerns about the site operation, you can contact


Local Testing Centres are a vital part of our defence against Covid-19 and I want to thank you for your support in helping to keep our communities safe.


January 2021

What you need to know about the COVID-19 vaccines

UPDATED 18 January 2021

• The coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines are safe and effective. They will give you the
best protection against coronavirus.

• The vaccines are part of our defence – we need to continue with hands, face,

• The NHS will let you know when it is your turn to have a vaccine. It is important not
to contact the NHS for a vaccination before then.

Who will get it when
• The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published its detailed
advice here

• In line with this guidance, in this initial phase vaccines will be prioritised for those 80
years of age and over, those who live and work in care home, and frontline health
and social care staff.

• Our ambition, if supplies allow, is to have offered vaccines to the most vulnerable 13
million people by the middle of February.

How will I know when I can get a vaccine?

• When it is the right time people will receive an invitation to come forward. For most
people this will be a letter, either from their GP or the national NHS.
This letter will include all the information you will need to book appointments,
including your NHS number. Please do not contact the NHS to get an appointment
until you get this letter.

• Information on the vaccine is available on the NHS.UK website.
Where the jabs will be administered.

• In England, the vaccine is being offered in some hospitals and pharmacies, at
hundreds of local vaccination centres run by GPs and at larger vaccination centres.
More centres are opening all the time.

• Over the coming weeks we will continue to build capacity across the system to offer
more vaccinations with additional local vaccination services, hospital and vaccination
centres coming on-line.

What vaccines are currently available?
• Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are now
available. Both vaccines have been shown to be safe and offer high levels of
protection and have been given regulatory approval by the MHRA.

• The Government has in principle secured access to seven different vaccine
candidates, across four different vaccine types, totalling over 357 million doses. This

* 40 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine
*100m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
* 7 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which has been approved by the
MHRA but is not expected to be delivered to the NHS until Spring.

Is the NHS confident the vaccines are safe? 
• Yes. The NHS will not offer any Covid-19 vaccinations to the public until independent
experts have signed off that it is safe to do so.

• The MHRA, the official UK regulator, have said that both of these vaccines have
good safety profiles and offer a high level of protection, and we have full confidence
in their expert judgement and processes.

• As with any medicine, vaccines are highly regulated products.

• There are checks at every stage in the development and manufacturing process, and
continued monitoring once it has been authorised and is being used in the wider

Can I get one privately? 
• No. Vaccinations are only available through the NHS. You can be contacted by the
NHS, your employer, or a GP surgery local to you, to receive your vaccine.
Remember, the vaccine is free of charge.

o The NHS will never ask you for your bank account or card details.
o The NHS will never ask you for your PIN or banking password.
o The NHS will never arrive unannounced at your home to administer the
o The NHS will never ask you to prove your identity by sending copies of
personal documents such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.

• If you receive a call you believe to be fraudulent, hang up. If you believe you have
been the victim of fraud or identity theft you should report this directly to Action Fraud
on 0300 123 2040. Where the victim is vulnerable, and particularly if you are worried
that someone has or might come to your house, report it to the Police online or by
calling 101.

How effective are the vaccines?  How long do they take to work?
• The MHRA have said these vaccines are highly effective, but to get full protection
people need to come back for the second dose – this is really important.

• To ensure as many people are vaccinated as quickly as possible, the Department for
Health and Social Care now advise that the second dose of both the
OxfordAstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine should be scheduled up to 12
weeks apart.

• Full protection kicks in around a week or two after that second dose, which is why it’s
also important that when you do get invited, you act on that and get yourself booked
in as soon as possible. Even those who have received a vaccine still need to follow
social distancing and other guidance.

Will the vaccines work with the new strains?
• There is no evidence currently that the new strains will be resistant to the vaccines
we have, so we are continuing to vaccinate people as normal. Scientists are looking
now in detail at the characteristics of the virus in relation to the vaccines. Viruses,
such as the winter flu virus, often branch into different strains but these small
variations rarely render vaccines ineffective.

I am confused about my second dose of the vaccine? Can you explain it this to me?
• Both vaccines have been authorised on the basis of two doses because the
evidence from the clinical trials shows that this gives the maximum level of

• To ensure as many people are vaccinated as quickly as possible, the Department for
Health and Social Care now advise that the second dose of both the
Oxford/AstraZeneca and the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine should be scheduled up to 12
weeks apart.

• The evidence doesn’t show any risk to not having the second dose other than not
being as protected as you otherwise would be. We would urge everyone to show up
for both of their appointments for their own protection as well as to ensure we don’t
waste vaccines or the time of NHS staff.

What about the Moderna vaccine? Why is this available in the USA but not here?
• The MHRA have now decided – after extensive assessment – that the Moderna
vaccines are safe and effective. The Government provisionally ordered several
million doses of this vaccine ahead of it being approved, but we don’t expect
Moderna to be able to make these available until Spring 2021.

Can people pick what vaccine they want? 
• No. Any vaccines that the NHS will provide will have been approved because they
pass the MHRA’s tests on safety and efficacy, so people should be assured that
whatever vaccine they get, it is worth their while.

Will you use the Oxford vaccine more because it’s cheaper and easier to store?
• The vaccines that the NHS uses and in what circumstances will be decided by the
MHRA. Both vaccines are classed as being very effective. The Oxford/AstraZeneca
is easier to store and transport, meaning we can deliver them in more places, and
we expect to have more doses available as they are manufactured in the UK, so we
would expect that most people are likely to receive this vaccine over the coming
weeks and months.

Does the vaccine include any parts from foetal or animal origin?
• No. There is no material of foetal or animal origin in either vaccine. All ingredients
are published in healthcare information on the MHRA’s website.

o For the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine information is available here.

o For the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine information is available here

COVID-19 vaccine side effects
• These are important details which the MHRA always consider when assessing
candidate vaccines for use.

• For these vaccines, like lots of others, they have identified that some people might
feel slightly unwell, but they report that no significant side effects have been
observed in the tens of thousands of people involved in trials.

• All patients will be provided with information on the vaccine they have received, how
to look out for any side effects, and what to do if they do occur, including reporting
them to the MHRA.

• More information on possible side effects can be found
Is it mandatory?
• There are no plans for a COVID-19 vaccine to be compulsory.
Why do I have to wait?

• The COVID-19 vaccines will become available as they are approved for use and as
each batch is manufactured. So every dose is needed to protect those at highest
risk. The NHS will let you know when it is your turn to have the vaccine.

• Some people who are housebound or live in a care home and who can’t get to a
local vaccination centre may have to wait for supply of the right type of vaccine. This
is because only some vaccines can be transported to people’s homes.
Advice if you are of childbearing age, pregnant or breastfeeding

• The MHRA have updated their guidance to say that pregnant women and those who
are breastfeeding can have the vaccine but should discuss it with a clinician to
ensure that the benefits outweigh any potential risks.

How does the vaccine work?
• The vaccine works by making a protein from the virus that is important for creating

• The protein works in the same way they do for other vaccines by stimulating the
immune system to make antibodies and cells to fight the infection.

How long will my vaccine be effective for?
• We expect these vaccines to work for at least a year – if not longer. This will be
constantly monitored.

What is being done to encourage vaccine uptake in black, Asian, minority ethnic and
other disproportionately affected communities/groups?

• We understand that some communities have specific concerns and may be more
hesitant in taking the vaccine than others. The NHS is working collaboratively with
partners to ensure vaccine messages reaches as diverse an audience as possible
and are tailored to meet their needs.

• This includes engagement with community and faith-led groups, charities and other
voluntary organisations.

What time will the opening hours of vaccination centres be?
• Standard opening times for vaccination centres will be 8am – 8pm, seven days a
week. To test the system and make sure the space is safe for visitors and staff, most
vaccination centres in the first day or days may open slightly later.

Who will receive a letter to book a vaccine appointment and how will this happen?
• People will start to receive booking letters from the NHS from Saturday 9 January,
which will contain the details of how they can book online or by phone. Initially letters
will be sent to people over the age of 80 that haven’t already been vaccinated and
live within a reasonable travel distance of a Vaccination Centre. This will expand to
other priority groups as more Vaccination Centres go live across the country.

December 2020

Press release: 23 December 2020
Shielders said that overall service was good, but communication could
have been better and some organisation more consistent.

Friends and family had big role to play in supporting people.

Mental health support is needed, particular for those who live alone.

Croydon COVID-19 shielders shared their experiences on first lockdown to help deliver
better services for the second one, because of insight led by Healthwatch Croydon, which
is published today.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Croydon Council were required to lead the delivery
of shielding services for over 8,000 residents. Healthwatch Croydon, the local resident’s
champion for health and care services, ran a survey from August to October 2020. They
wanted to find out the views of shielders including their experience of shielding, how
effective the Council’s actions had been in providing information about services, whether
shielders needed extra services beyond those initially suggested. They also wanted to
know their experience when shielding has been paused, including the use of telephone
and video consultations.

The experience of those using shielding services in Croydon due to COVID-19, published
today presents the following findings and recommendations. These were shared with
Croydon Council in October before second lockdown which enabled services leaders to
make changes to improve services for shielders based on their views.


Download the press release here >>>

Download the report here >>> 

December 2020

The vaccine is finally here and we can now release to you the FAQ’s and information packs for you to download and read. The majority of your questions can be answered via the link below.


Click here for all the information you will need about the vaccine including downloadable information packs and FAQ’S