In this section you can hear from our volunteers in their own words about the work they are involved in on behalf of Healthwatch Cornwall.
Healthwatch Cornwall provides Graham with the opportunity to utilise his existing life skills and knowledge as well as providing interesting new ones. He said: “Before moving to Cornwall, I’d been associated with a men’s health charity for many years, including co-coordinating research.
“Now, as a volunteer Healthwatch Cornwall Champion I get the chance to speak to groups both about what Healthwatch Cornwall does and the powers it has to get responses within set time frames from commissioners and providers of services.”
Graham also enjoys going out to the different NHS funded health facilities to gather feedback from patients and staff, and he is glad to hear that much is positive. “People really value their local hospitals and surgery’s.”
In addition, through Healthwatch Cornwall, Graham has been involved in various activities relating to how the NHS and Cornwall Council adult social care department work closer together, utilising his experience from his time on the social work committee of the Highland Council where they had started integration about five years ago.
Kathy came on board as an Enter and View volunteer but has also used her people skills to become actively involved in outreach activities. “I volunteer with Healthwatch Cornwall because I want to improve health and social care
services,” she said, “it is important that the voice of those who use the services is heard by those who provide them. I enjoy being part of the team and still being able to use the skills I gained in my work as a mental health advocate.”
Elliott volunteers at the office in Truro, coming in regularly to help with data entry and any other computer-based tasks such as preparing mailouts. We all look forward to seeing his smiley face on a Monday morning.
He said: “I enjoy volunteering with Healthwatch Cornwall as it makes me feel part of a team, the work is varied and I get to feel like I am making a difference for others.”
When Debbie Priest found it difficult to secure paid work in Cornwall in the psychology sector following her completion of a MSc in Psychological Research Methods, she decided to approach Healthwatch Cornwall about potential voluntary positions.
She said: “I really wanted to put the skills that I had learned at university into practice and to make a difference to my local community.”
Following an initial induction with our volunteer officer Jody Wilson, Debbie began working with our research officer, James Buist. Healthwatch Cornwall wanted to learn more about how people use their pharmacies and what they felt may improve their experience. With a background in pharmacy, Debbie was well placed to lead on the development of a questionnaire to gather public feedback.
She added: “James has been very supportive and has mentored me through the project, teaching me how to use Survey Monkey and about different software applications that are used that I had not heard about when studying at university.
“Although my degree is in Psychology, I have a wealth of experience from a previous career in pharmacy. Therefore, when Healthwatch Cornwall mentioned they were looking at patients’ views of their pharmacy service in Cornwall I jumped at the chance to be involved.”
Debbie has worked in community pharmacy for many years and then for the medicines management team in Plymouth before moving to Cornwall and becoming a dispensary manager for a large GP practice. This experience and knowledge gave her the ability to see the service from different perspectives.
“I have now written a report about the pharmacy service in Cornwall and this is great to have on my CV. I’ve really enjoyed my time volunteering with Healthwatch Cornwall and, hopefully, I have helped to make a difference to the health service in Cornwall at the same time.”
She said: “The Healthwatch Cornwall team has allowed me to develop my potential in so many ways and I thank them for that.
“I find myself engaging with lots of people living in Cornwall and listening to their diverse lives and experiences; it is such a privilege to share these moments.
“When I raise questions about health and social care services I often learn of situations that have given rise to anxiety and sometimes despair. But just as often, I hear how grateful many folk are for the excellent attention and treatment they have received.
“Healthwatch Cornwall volunteers are ready to hear your views in the street, in the shops or wherever you are so that our health and social care services are maintained to the very highest standard, particularly when funding is hard to come by.
“Being a volunteer for Healthwatch Cornwall has opened up such an exciting opportunity to make a difference in Cornwall.”
Healthwatch Cornwall’s Advisory Forum is instrumental in guiding the work the organisation researches. It’s Chair Jeremy Preedy has been doing a sterling job in directing the group and pushing forward with plans to address health and social care issues.
He said: “I volunteered to join the Healthwatch Cornwall Steering Group in the hope that I would be able to help get some improvements where they were needed. Being a 24/7 carer myself, I had met with other carers in Cornwall and discovered that some of them were really struggling; many of them in situations much more challenging than mine.
“Since joining the Steering Group I have had the opportunity to meet people in the streets of Penzance, and Falmouth and St Just and hear about their experiences and their expectations and I have been pleased to find that many of the comments we collect are positive.
“Many people go out of their way to tell us about the excellent service they have received from sensitive and caring professionals in the NHS and Social Care agencies, yet we have also collected some evidence of poor service, inadequate care, insensitive treatment of some people in distress and policies that seem constructed for the convenience of officials rather than the public.
“We are beginning to get things done: Healthwatch Cornwall is increasingly being involved in serious discussions of current practice and future policy; officials in the NHS and in Cornwall Council are including our team in their considerations; our Operational Team are becoming much more widely known and influential, and while it always takes longer to make a difference than you hoped it would, some positive impact can now be seen.
“There is a lot more that needs doing. We need more volunteers to help us to spread the word, to find good practice, to see what is really happening to patients, and their carers. Being a volunteer means that you can help make improvements happen. I say to people who complain about health services, “Don’t just whinge about it – get something done”, and volunteering to join in with us is a good way to start.”