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.
Hi! I’m Cecily, I am currently doing my GCSEs and Gold Duke of Edinburgh (DoE) at a school in Croydon. For my volunteering with DoE, I wanted to do something related to healthcare to contribute to my interest in a medical career. Therefore, volunteering at Healthwatch Croydon was ideal as it was close to my school and dealt with healthcare in my local community. I started volunteering at Healthwatch Croydon about half a year ago, where I came in for an hour every week to complete my volunteering component of the Duke of Edinburgh course, I have found my experience at Healthwatch Croydon has been very beneficial.
I have gained better understanding of the structure of the NHS. In particular, the care of Alzheimer patients, the requirements of local clinics and mental health services for young people. In addition to this, I have also observed meetings by the staff on issues such as the number of slots available to dental clinics and shortages of paramedics. This insight has greatly helped me decide which region of medicine that I want to consider.
I’ve also obtained practical skills from Healthwatch Croydon which are more transferable to other careers. For example, I have gained a better understanding on using Excel effectively by helping analyse data from surveys. I have also learnt about marketing for businesses and charities, which is an area I knew little about before. Overall, I feel that I’ve picked up skills on marketing, communication, and analytical skills.
I have enjoyed going to Healthwatch Croydon immensely, the team has been friendly and have helped answer all the questions that I have asked about the NHS. It has also been great to be around an office environment and see how people work and interact together.
We have some news to share with you today. NHS South West London has launched a groundbreaking Mental Health Strategy. This transformative strategy outlines their plans to enhance and support the health of our local community over the next five years.
At Healthwatch Croydon we wholeheartedly embrace this initiative as it deeply aligns with our mission to advocate for healthcare services. The development of this strategy involved an analysis of the community’s needs and active engagement, with residents, stakeholders and individuals who have faced health challenges.
A Strong Emphasis on Prevention and Wellbeing;
One of the objectives of this strategy is to prioritise prevention much as treatment. Starting from pregnancy and continuing throughout life it aims to prioritize wellbeing and build community resilience. By taking an approach NHS South West London aims to create an environment that nurtures wellness right from the start.
Impacting the Entire Region:
This innovative strategy covers Croydon, Kingston, Merton, Richmond, Sutton and Wandsworth. Making it the first of its kind, in London. As Healthwatch Croydon we are thrilled to see this effort encompassing the South West London region.
Join hands with us as we work together to build a nurturing and supportive environment that prioritizes the well being of all individuals.
Our Dedication, to Positive Change:
Healthwatch Croydon is fully committed to playing a role in supporting the implementation of this strategy. By listening to and amplifying the voices of our community we strive to ensure that this Mental Health Strategy effectively meets the needs and aspirations of those it aims to serve.
Together lets wholeheartedly embrace this transformation and foster an more resilient South West London for each and every individual.
Find out more about the strategy here>>>
We are excited to announce the release of our latest report by Healthwatch Croydon titled “Non English Speaking Croydon Residents’ Experience of Accessing Services”. This comprehensive study compiles feedback from over 100 residents who speak languages other than English at homes’ difficulties when accessing crucial health and social care services within this borough.
The research identified language barriers experienced by non English speaking communities leading the list as a significant issue limiting access to healthcare services effectively. The report uncovers struggles reported by these individuals concerning booking appointments comprehending medical information while communicating with healthcare professionals further emphasizes this significant challenge.
Based on these findings. The report makes a particular recommendation for improved provision for interpretation and translation services in both health and social care set ups while taking into consideration cultural competence concerns to cater more adequately to all members within these settings.
Additionally. Involving community organizations and leaders contributes positively towards better communication lines promoting inclusivity among diverse communities in accessing essential healthcare needs.
Healthwatch Croydon remains committed to working closely with local providers engaging all identified issues raised from our research fully.
This collaboration will ensure that action is taken towards enhancing access facilitating superior delivery service for non English speaking residents within our borough.
As many of you may know, Healthwatch Croydon is an independent organisation that champions the views and experiences of local people in relation to health and social care services in the borough. Recently, we released a report that highlights some of the key concerns and issues raised by Croydon residents in relation to accessing dental care.
Our report, titled “Dental Care in Croydon: The Views and Experiences of Local People”, is based on feedback from over 200 residents who shared their experiences with us through surveys and focus groups. The report highlights a number of concerns, including the high cost of dental treatment, long waiting times for appointments, and a lack of availability of NHS dental services.
One of the key findings of the report was that many Croydon residents are struggling to access dental care, with some resorting to self-treatment or delaying treatment due to financial constraints. This is particularly concerning given the impact that poor oral health can have on overall health and well-being.
In response to these concerns, we have made a number of recommendations to improve access to dental care in the borough. These include:
Increasing the availability of NHS dental services in Croydon, particularly in areas where access is limited.
Addressing the high cost of dental treatment, for example by exploring the possibility of introducing more affordable payment plans.
Improving communication and information sharing between dental practices and patients, to ensure that people are aware of their options and can make informed decisions about their care.
We are currently working with local health authorities and dental practices to explore how these recommendations can be implemented, and we will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that progress is being made.
Overall, our report highlights the importance of ensuring that everyone in Croydon has access to high-quality dental care. We hope that our recommendations will be taken on board and that positive changes can be made to improve access and reduce the financial burden on local residents.
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post, and please feel free to share your own experiences and views on dental care in Croydon with us at Healthwatch Croydon.
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
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
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: https://www.healthwatchcroydon.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/GP-Access-Guide-Focus-Group-September-2021-final.pdf
View the guide here: https://www.healthylondon.org/our-work/primary-care/gp-access/
You can view the video here https://youtu.be/CENaOzmV7rs where we presented our insight her – we are 39 minutes or see other webinars here: https://www.healthylondon.org/our-work/primary-care/gp-access/london-general-practice-access-guide-webinars-2021/
View the blog on the NHS Future Engagement Website here: https://future.nhs.uk/system/login. Please note you will need to register to see the article.
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.
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.
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 gov.uk and nhs.uk 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:
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.
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 longer–term 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.
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,
Healthwatch Croydon Manager
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.
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.
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.
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
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,
Healthwatch Croydon presents the final report on Dementia Pathway Experiences in Croydon, informing the Croydon Dementia Strategy through insightful surveys with patients, carers, and friends/family, in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Society.
Issues raised include diagnosis time, post diagnosis support, support and care needs, advance care planning, information services for both patients and carers, understanding needs and preferences, as well as suggested improvements, concerns about going into care home and hospitals and what contributes to making Croydon dementia friendly.
Recommendations included better communication and information, improving the time for diagnosis, care planning and reassessments, increased carers support, understanding needs and preferences, and better awareness. These have informed the Croydon Dementia Strategy due to be published later this year.
Dr Emily Symington, GP – Parchmore Medical Centre, Croydon, and Clinical Lead – Personalised Care, Population Health Management, Long Term Conditions, Croydon Place, said: “The Dementia & Older Adults Steering Group have found the survey useful to understand the views of people with dementia, their families and carers living within Croydon. We heard about how communication at all parts of their journey was important and how people wanted to be supported and heard by those providing services. The findings have underpinned the development of the Croydon Dementia Strategy which is due to be published later in 2023. The Croydon Dementia Strategy focuses on the diagnosis and support available for dementia; and how to ensure people in Croydon are able to live well with dementia as well as coming to the end of their life well. We have been able to take the different responses and apply these within each part of the dementia pathway, weaving in feedback comments and emphasising the importance of information and support at every stage. As a part of the development process, we have been able to feedback to system partners points about specific services and think about what could be changed to meet the identified needs. Healthwatch Croydon is a valued partner, and we would like to thank Gordon and team for their hard work on this report. We look forward to exploring future possibilities with the Croydon Healthwatch team as we begin to implement the dementia strategy and measure its outcomes.”
Gordon Kay, Healthwatch Croydon Manager, said: “Dementia is a high priority for all health and social care providers. There is an estimated 3,597 people over the age of 65 with dementia in Croydon, and this is predicted to rise to 5,471 by 2039 yet only 2,692 have received a diagnosis. Our partnership work with the Alzheimer’s Society to understand experiences of views of patients, carers and friends and families has helped define the soon-to-be publishes strategy and make a difference to all those affected by dementia in the coming years. We have already received positive feedback from key stakeholders. As a member of the Croydon Dementia Action Alliance, we look forward to working with services in the coming years to ensure all the recommendations are implemented.”
In this latest report, Healthwatch Croydon has made a number of recommendations to help improve access to health and social care services in Croydon for non-English speaking residents. In 2016 NHS England implemented the Accessible Information standard to ensure people with a disability, impairment or sensory loss could communicate effectively with providers. Healthwatch Croydon received funding from Healthwatch England to explore if this should be extended to language. We carried out structured interviews – all through an interpreter – with French African, Latin Spanish, and Ukrainian speakers and held a focus group with a Tamil community. We also interviewed some professionals who work across a range of healthcare settings as well as an interpreter.
Find out more here>>>
Our latest report has just been released, looking at the route and ease at which Croydon residents took to Croydon Urgent and Emergency Department.
Over 1000 people responded to our survey: 52% made either GPs visit or NHS 111 their first choice, 40% who chose 999 or A&E first felt they needed to be seen quickly or had a serious injury; 15% had difficulty seeing a GP and 74% got seen within two contacts but other have more complex journeys.
- People understand the difference between emergency care and urgent care, but not between a GP and GP Hub.
- Overall satisfaction was 62% but there was significant variance by age, gender and ethnicity.
- This insight has influenced recommissioning of NHS111 services for Croydon and the shape of services being defined by Croydon Urgent Care Alliance.
Read the press release and full report here>>>
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>>>
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: https://youtu.be/YLi9gh7RyLA
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.”
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:
- How we look after your health and care information
- NHS Digital Transparency Notice
- NHS Digital COVID-19 Response Transparency Notice
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 >>>
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.
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.
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. www.childrensmentalhealthweek.org.uk
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 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 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 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.
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 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.