The Information Team at Healthwatch Essex – the independent charity that listens to and represents the voice of users of health and social care in Essex – has been named the best in the country winning the national Information and Advice award.
The award that is contested by 152 Healthwatch organisations across the country was given to Healthwatch Essex at the Healthwatch England national conference last week. The organisation was also ‘Highly commended’ in the ‘Local Healthwatch Working Together’ category.
“We’re absolutely delighted, said Dr David Sollis, Engagement Manager at Healthwatch Essex, who takes over the post of Chief Executive in a fortnight’s time. “As you can imagine the competition was stiff, but I think what we now do here is so comprehensive and makes such a difference to the lives of people in the county, the judges just couldn’t ignore the impact we’re making. Last year we directly helped over 4,000 local patients, carers and professionals.”
Healthwatch Essex has a responsibility to provide an information service to help people access, understand, and navigate the health and social care system. “We know it’s not always clear where to go for information about health and social care services, so we run a confidential telephone information line providing support on a wide range of topics,” explained David.
“From finding out how to register with a GP, to learning more about local dementia services or residential care options, or how to make a complaint, our team is just a phone call away, Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.”
The Information Service at Healthwatch Essex also has an online Feedback Centre where the public can share their experiences of health and social care in Essex. In the same way as Trip Advisor, it allows people to leave a review – and read reviews already left – in relation to a whole host of health and care services in the county.
These include hospitals, hospices, emergency care services, pharmacies, opticians, dentists, care homes, home care services, mental health services, community or voluntary services and GPs.
People can simply go to www.healthwatch.org.uk, search for the service by name or location, complete the online form and submit their review. “The Feedback Centre has been really successful and does the job we are primarily here to do – which is to share real lived experience; what people actually find when they use a health or care service,” said David.
In addition, the Information Service was recognised for the getting out and about to events all over the county to promote what it does and projects such as its Grants Scheme. Launched last year, it helps community and voluntary services gain access to funds for specific pieces of work around providing better information. The scheme has just announced a new round of funding – details can be found on the Essex Community Foundation website – www.essexcommunityfoundation.org.uk