Read our monthly team report to get a taste of how Healthwatch Reading works to inform, advise or advocate for local people to help them get the health & care services they need.

We’ve had a busy month during October 2018…

We began the month by attending the annual conference held by Healthwatch England on October 3 and 4– that’s the umbrella body that supports the 152 local Healthwatch across the country – including us. We were inspired by a speech from Sir Robert Francis, the new chair of Healthwatch England. He’s most well known for chairing the public inquiry into care failings in Mid-Staffordshire. As well as calling for a new Healthwatch social movement (which you can read more about later in this e-newsletter), he also urged all of us to concentrate on listening to people in our communities who are most vulnerable and whose voice goes unheard.

With that in mind, we were pleased to facilitate involvement of local ethnic minority women in a patient forum, held on October 9 at the NHS offices on Bath Rd.  This was a result of our ongoing ‘seldom heard’ project, which involved us interviewing a diverse range of people, including women who attend the Reading Community Learning Centre, about barriers they face in fully accessing health and care services.  Our project report has been submitted to local NHS and council leaders for a response, but we were also keen to empower people to become more involved in shaping local services. Our team member Catherine Williams worked closely with two of women who use RCLC, to encourage them to attend a meeting of North and West Reading Patient Voice and worked with the NHS organisers of the meeting to ensure they would have time to speak. Our thanks to RCLC worker Shaheen Kausar for helping to make this happen. This kind of connection is already making a difference, with plans to get women learners involved as volunteer members of patient participation groups, and the NHS working more closely with the RCLC on upcoming health promotion.

It was great to hear that local NHS officials are acting on our feedback about new ‘enhanced access’ to appointments, according to the October 10 meeting in public of the committee that covers primary care.  We had got in touch with Berkshire West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to discuss the varying level of information on Reading GP surgery websites, which in some cases does not fully make clear that, since October 1 2018, people are now entitled to request an appointment between 8am-8pm, seven days a week, under a government pledge. Following the meeting, Healthwatch Reading has been asked to give feedback about the content of new public information leaflet being developed by the CCG.

October 10 was World Mental Health Day and we checked out a range of local events held that week to raise public awareness, including a stand at the Royal Berkshire Hospital which included special guests from the GB Hockey team. We also went to an event on suicide prevention, aimed at breaking taboos on the topic, held on October 12 at the Reading International Solidary Centre including a great talk by Shirley Anstis, local counsellor and psychotherapist (pictured).
We were accompanied by the head of local charity Support U, Lorna McArdle (pictured) in presentinting our joint report on experiences of LGBT+ people using local services, to the October 12 meeting in public 
of the Reading Health and Wellbeing Board. This board includes councillors and health and adult social care chiefs and is a real opportunity to scrutinise and debate issues affecting local people. As a result, organisations have agreed to meet with Healthwatch Reading and Support U to discuss our recommendations for better staff training so people who are LGBT+ don’t experience any prejudice or wrong assumptions when they disclose their sexuality and/or gender identity.
Our organisation often gets called by people concerned about when or how they or a relative will get care they need when they’re discharged from hospital, especially if they had a fall or acute illness which means they won’t be able to do everything
they used to for a while. So, it was timely to be invited to an event (pictured) on 26 October, which was set up by occupational therapists (OTs) at the Royal Berks who wanted to meet community organisations that are available across Berkshire to help people when they’re ready to go home.  OTs help decide if patients are ready and what extra support they need (such as handrails in the home) and thanks to the event, are now also aware of the enormous support that local charities can provide whether information, advice and advocacy like our service, social support like befrienders or carers groups, or practical support like getting food in for people coming home.

Last but not least, we have spent a lot of time treading the streets of Reading this month to distribute our new posters – if you haven’t seen one yet at your local library, supermarket, church or other community venue, then here’s a selection. If you’re an organisation who you think we haven’t reached yet, please let us know and we’ll drop by. Here’s some examples: