Meet the Kent patients helping to heal the NHS

  • 3,214 local residents share their stories to help diagnose where things aren’t’t working and let doctors, nurses and care workers know when they are getting it right.
  • Part of nationwide movement that has seen almost 300,000 come forward over the last year to help those running frontline health and care services find ways to improve.
  • New #ItStartsWithYou campaign launched to highlight the difference patient feedback can make.

From concerned mums to passionate pensioners, thousands of ordinary people all across the country are sharing their experiences to help hard pressed hospitals, GP surgeries and care homes find ways to improve.

In the last year the Healthwatch network has heard from 297,290 people specifically sharing their story so that the NHS and council-run care services can learn, survive and thrive in difficult times.

But this is just the beginning, with new research suggesting just over 3 out of 4 adults in England would be interested in sharing their feedback in order to improve health and social care services if given the opportunity.

The Healthwatch network exists to make it easy for people to give feedback about health and care services, requiring no more than a short telephone call, email or even a Tweet.

Healthwatch Kent has been out encouraging people to share their views and helping local NHS and social care services gather insight into people’s experiences. We’ve visited every Kent hospital this year to talk to people about their experiences of services. We’ve also visited hundreds of local communities where we’ve met over 5,000 Kent residents hearing from people about a whole range of issues including mental health, disability, social services, care home, GPs and cancer services.

Giving feedback is easy, but for those who want to go further local Healthwatch are on hand to help individuals work directly with local health and care bosses to come up with ideas together for how services should change and then put these plans into action.

During a visit to Darent Valley Hospital we met a man who was in hospital for a broken hip. He also needed regular dialysis so he was taken from the ward to the renal unit. However, while on dialysis he missed the official lunch time and the chance to choose his food for the next day. That meant that not only did he not get a hot meal when he returned to the ward, he also didn’t get a choice for the next day. Thanks to our intervention, there is now a new hospital wide policy in place to ensure all patients get a hot meal if they miss lunchtime.

Reports from across the Healthwatch network suggest that the value of listening to patient feedback is starting to gain real traction within the NHS with two thirds of local Healthwatch reporting that healthcare providers are now actively seeking out information from them about how patients are experiencing care.

In recognition of all those who have shared their feedback, Healthwatch England is today launching a new campaign, entitled #ItStartsWithYou, to highlight the difference people can make by sharing their experiences and to encourage more people to come forward.

A week of celebration will culminate in the Healthwatch Network Annual Conference where hundreds of volunteers and leaders from local Healthwatch will be sharing ideas about how to further boost public engagement in improving health and social care.

Imelda Redmond, National Director of Healthwatch England, said:

“Giving doctors and nurses or care home staff a box of chocolates to say thank you is a lovely gesture but sharing feedback about the experience with those in charge is far more powerful. Not only does it help to boost the morale of under pressure staff but it can help the whole health and care sector understand what it is getting right and where things need to improve.

“Healthwatch makes it easy for people to share their experiences, both good and bad, and ensures that from individual doctors’ surgeries to the corridors of central government, those in charge of planning and delivering services hear what people have to say.

“Its heartening to see a growing culture of people willing to share their story and incredibly important that the NHS is also increasingly keen to find out what people are feeding back. But to unleash the full potential we need people to keep sharing their experiences with us, so I urge everyone to speak up and help us make the changes we all want to see.”