The value of being involved and speaking up

This month’s blog has been written by Dr Peter Levin, a passionate supporter of the NHS and a member of West Cornwall HealthWatch. He also has a seat on the Shaping Our Future Citizen Advisory Panel. A former academic, he has been an advocate of public participation in planning and policy-making for more than 40 years and wants to see that principle acted on in the planning of Cornwall’s health and social care services. He has his own website at Peter firmly supports Healthwatch Cornwall’s remit in encouraging everyone to have their say on their health and social care services.

“Work is going on right now on producing a new health and social care plan for Cornwall. This plan aims to bring about integration of services provided by very different organisations: the National Health Service, which incorporates a variety of providers, such as family doctors, the district nursing service, and the trusts that run acute and community hospitals; Cornwall Council, the local authority, which helps adults with social care needs and provides a range of children’s services; and voluntary and charitable organizations (the ‘third sector’) which bring together volunteers in a wide variety of programmes to help people with practical living and social needs.

“One thing that has come to the fore recently is that organisations and the people working in them are often not good at talking to one another. You may get admitted to hospital and find yourself in the care of a doctor who makes a diagnosis of what is wrong with you but hasn’t read notes that your family doctor has made. Or you may be at home with a wound that needs regular dressing and realise that you never know which district nurse is coming to visit you next: they may have very different ideas about which dressing to use and how it should be applied. Or you may be in a bed at Treliske after an operation waiting to move out to a community hospital for further treatment to get you up and about again, but no beds are available because the community hospitals are full.

“As a patient you are on the receiving end when things like this happen, so you have a special contribution to make to the planning process. You have a unique viewpoint and you have an ‘all-round’ view of the treatments you receive. As a result you’re able to see how they fit together, or don’t fit together, whereas all the professionals and charities in their different areas have their own narrow view of you and the treatment you’re being given. You know your history and background better than anyone else.

“With work going on now to put together a health and social care plan in which services are integrated – joined up – it is hugely important that patients’ experiences of joined-up care are fed in to the process. It is vital that organisations such as Healthwatch Cornwall can gather patients’ stories of when their care has failed to be joined up, and – equally – of when it has been joined up. Lessons can be learned from successes as well as failures of course, and as someone involved in the sustainability and transformation process I want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to speak up and inform it.”

To provide feedback about your experiences of health and/or social care services to Healthwatch Cornwall, visit our Have Your Say page or call us on 0800 0381 281.