To mark the start of 2019, Healthwatch England has published its annual network priorities list – setting out the key health and care topics that local Healthwatch across the country will be working on over the year ahead.
Last year Healthwatch engaged with over 400,000 people about their experiences of care.
Drawing on the wealth of qualitative data they collect, and through additional activities such as high-street surveys and events, each local Healthwatch works with their community to set out a number of priorities for their area.
Healthwatch have analysed 139 of these local plans to compile a list of the top issues from across the country.
The top five priorities for 2019
- Primary care (including access to GPs) – (64 local Healthwatch)
- Children and young people – (57 local Healthwatch)
- Mental health – (50 local Healthwatch)
- Services working better together – (49 local Healthwatch)
- Adult social care, including residential care homes or care at home – (41 local Healthwatch)
Focus on primary care
With the vast majority of people’s experiences of the NHS coming through their GP, it is not surprising to see it at the top of this year’s list. Whilst getting an appointment continues to be a common issue, it’s by no means the only thing people are telling Healthwatch about.
For example, previous research by Healthwatch has shown that being able to book an appointment with your GP online is the direction people want primary care to go in, but they want it to go further. They want to be able to book appointments with a variety of primary care professionals, from practice nurses to pharmacists, not just the GP.
When it comes to mental health, Healthwatch research has shown that people recognise the improving support on offer through their GP, but that they want to see more peer support rather than having to see their family doctor.
Sir Robert Francis, Chair of Healthwatch England, said:
“Taking the time to listen to people’s experiences of care and what they want to see done differently is enlightening and often generates a range of practical solutions that can help services better meet the demands being placed on them.
“This is what we do at Healthwatch. We take the time to listen, and encourage others across health and care to do the same, building vital insight that helps services make the right changes.
“As well as GPs, it’s really encouraging to see the needs of young people as a key area of focus. The fact that social care appears in the top five for the third year in a row also shows the increasing attention communities want to see placed on creating a system that works for them.
“But we cannot improve things on our own. If anyone has a story they want to share or an idea they think might help, I urge them to make it their New Year’s resolution to get involved and speak to their local Healthwatch.”
The projects undertaken by local Healthwatch will build on their day-to-day activities. These include visiting health and social care services such as hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes and engaging local people at events and in public spaces to gather their views.
At a national level, we will look to use the combined findings to provide insight for decision makers across the NHS, social care sector and Whitehall about the sorts of improvements people want to see.