Introduction to the report from our Chair; Dr Liz Meerabeau
Both the team and the work of Healthwatch Kingston have grown considerably in the last year. We have maintained our important work on community care, and mental health and hospital services, and thank the chairs of these task groups, Nigel Spalding (currently acting), and Tony Williams and Graham Goldspring (who have recently or are about to retire).
In addition we have hosted the Time to Change Kingston Hub Coordinator and have developed our pioneering work with people who find it harder to make their voices heard, such as people with learning disabilities and adults needing safeguarding. These activities have earned Healthwatch Kingston an additional £26,000, but more importantly they have enriched our work and deepened our relationships with our local communities.
A further achievement has been to maintain most of our activities and adapt our ways of working in response to the coronavirus lockdown, earning us a green rating from Healthwatch England. However, we recognise that some people are excluded from digital communication, and physical contact can be important.
We have progressed changes you wanted to see from 2018-19.
The discharge process was addressed by the hospital services task group (discussed further in this report).
We have provided more accessible information to people living with a learning disability by recruiting a member of staff and two volunteers to review our material and our website has been awarded the Plain English Campaign ‘Crystal Mark’.
Making GP surgeries and pharmacies more friendly to young people will be pursued further with the Local Pharmacy Committee and the Primary Care Networks, which are now well established.
Achieving more capacity for individual mental health therapy is likely to be challenging, since demand is likely to soar due to the anxieties created by the pandemic.
We are keenly aware of the demands put on our colleagues in health and social care in responding to the coronavirus pandemic and appreciate their united efforts.
At the time of writing we are still in the ‘Command and Control’ phase of the pandemic, but virtual meetings have resumed and information on how services have been reconfigured and how they have performed is now becoming available.
We understand that data on care homes and domiciliary care is now more systematic and we welcome that as Healthwatch Kingston now receives more enquiries on social care.
Some local structures also changed on 1st April, during lockdown; the six south west London Clinical Commissioning Groups merged and an Integrated Care System was created. Healthwatch Kingston was fully briefed on these changes, and we will ensure that the views of patients and the public continue to be central.
It is likely that service changes which have been proposed for some time, such as a greater use of digital consultation in primary care and more care delivered outside hospital settings, will have been accelerated by the need to protect both the NHS and its patients and will stay in place; there will not be a return to previous ways of working. Local residents’ views on the new ways of working will be discussed in next year’s report.