To mark the start of 2019, Healthwatch England has published their annual network priorities list – setting out the key health and care topics their local teams will be working on over the year ahead.
Over the 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 townhall events, each local Healthwatch works with their community to set out a number of priorities for their area.
Healthwatch England has analysed 139 of these local plans and compiled a national list of the top issues.
The top five priorities for 2019 are:
• Primary care (including access to GPs) – 64
• Children and young people – 57
• Mental health – 50
• Services working better together – 49
• Adult social care, including residential care homes or care at home – 41
The projects undertaken by Healthwatch will build on the day-to-day activities of the network visiting hospital, GPs and care homes etc. and engaging with local people at events and in public spaces to gather their views.
At a national level they 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.
To do this they need the support of local people. They need more willing individuals to join their 5,000 volunteers and help smash last year’s recording breaking efforts – which saw an increase the number of experiences collected by an impressive 19%.
They also need more people to come forward and share their experiences and ideas , and help to reach their goal of hearing from more than one million people a year.
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 top this year’s list. And whilst problems getting an appointment is a common issue, it’s by no means the only thing people feedback about.
Online booking systems for example. Previous research by Healthwatch has shown that this the direction they 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.