Your experience matters: how have you been affected by the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak?

This week we have launched an updated version of our survey Coronavirus: Your Experience Matters.

 

When the pandemic took hold earlier this year, we wanted to hear local people’s views and experiences. We ran focus groups and interview sessions with local groups and launched our first survey to give people the opportunity to talk to us about their experiences.

 

We wanted as many people as possible to be able to share their experiences with us. As well as our online survey and our focus group and interview sessions, we also sent out over 1,000 physical copies of our survey to local people. We did this to make sure that people without access to the internet, or people who would rather respond on paper, could still share their experiences with us. For a small organisation, sending out over 1,000 physical surveys was a big task: envelopes and paper took over our office for the entire spring and summer!

 

Our dedicated group of volunteers were essential. They spent hours helping us get the physical surveys and information sheets into envelopes, and also helped distribute them to friends, family and neighbours.

 

People told us about the toll this period has taken on their mental health, their financial worries and how difficult it has been coming out of lockdown.

 

We received over 300 responses to our online survey and we are still receiving physical responses in the post. Respondents told us about their concerns and the difficulties they were facing. They also told us good stories about keeping in touch with loved ones, trying out new routines, and reconnecting with old friends and family. People told us about the toll this period has taken on their mental health, their financial worries and how difficult it has been coming out of lockdown. People also spoke about how thankful they were for their family, friends and carers for the support they have received over this period.

 

We wanted to make sure that local people’s experiences were heard in decisions about health and social care provision.

 

We wanted to make sure that local people’s experiences were heard in decisions about health and social care provision. Based on what people had told us, we created and published reports, infographics and blog posts. You can read our work on COVID-19 on our website.

 

We also shared what we were told in conversations with health and social care service providers and commissioners, public health officials, other local charities and organisations, North West London NHS Trust and NHS England. We wanted to make sure that they understand how rapid changes have impacted patients and what they need to do to make sure that local people can get the help and support they need.

 

As part of this effort, we met with the special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) lead in Westminster to report on the communication and support needs of parents with children with SEND during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our findings from this COVID-19 engagement will now be used to help develop improved communications with parents with children with SEND that highlights all the support offered locally.

 

Alongside this, Thrive LDN are using our COVID-19 engagement findings to support their work ensuring that all Londoners have access to proper mental health support. Our engagement work will contribute to their drive to ensure that mental health provision takes into consideration the lived experiences of those impacted by inequality, injustice or poverty.

 

We have also been using what we have learnt over this period to make sure that stakeholders involved in the ongoing development of the Borough Plans have access to evidence that sets out how local people, including from identified seldom heard groups, have experienced accessing health services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

We want to know what is working, and what is not, so we can make sure that local people’s experiences are reflected in ongoing changes in health and social care provision in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.

 

Eight months has now passed from the launch of our original survey. The situation in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea is different. Since we launched our survey in March, we have seen new measures to deal with COVID-19 introduced and relaxed. We have had news about a possible vaccine. Most importantly, we are facing a second wave of COVID-19 and have now seen more measures reintroduced.

 

We want to hear local people’s views and experiences of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. We want to know how people are coping, how services could work better, and what additional support people need. We want to know how things are different now from earlier in the year. We want to know what is working, and what is not, so we can make sure that local people’s experiences are reflected in ongoing changes in health and social care provision in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.

 

That’s why we’ve created an updated version of our Coronavirus: Your Experience Matters survey. If you have some time, we would love to hear about your recent experiences.

 

Take our updated ‘Coronavirus: Your Experience Matters’ survey now.

If you require the survey in a different format, or you would like a physical copy of the survey, please email us at info@healthwatchcentralwestlondon.org

You can read more of our work on COVID-19 here.

 

Get in touch

  • If you wish to just leave us a single comment on how you have been impacted by Coronavirus, please click here
  • Send a text or a video to our Whatsapp number: 07849 08 40 14
  • Join the conversation on our NextDoor group
  • Be part of our Facebook group
  • Talk to us on Twitter
  • Send us a picture that reflects how you are coping on our Instagram
  • Call us on 020 8968 7049

Young Healthwatch Westminster Blog: Mental Health at Work

In this blog post one of our senior volunteers, Rupert, talks you through his experience at work, the challenges he faced and, how he has managed his wellbeing. 

“I have been working in my current job since August 2019, and it also happens to be my first job since university. I think inevitably any new environment takes time getting used to, especially one where the change is as huge as entering the workplace full time. I have struggled a fair bit (more than I had envisaged) at adjusting to this change. Above all, I would say I have learnt that there are so many different facets to what makes a good job. I now realise that simple things such as the people you are surrounded by and the location of your job have a significant influence on your attitude towards work.

For instance, I work in a small office and it can be tough being in such a confined space all day with little interaction with others. This is largely because my industry is very much merited on individual efforts as opposed to group work, meaning relationships are tougher to forge. Fortunately, over time I have in fact managed to build a couple of close relationships and am generally more settled. However my experience at work goes to show – like in any environment – the importance of having good people around you to talk with and open up to!”

Support & Contact

Mind have this support page on managing your mental health at work. If you would to know more about what we do or the support that is out there, get in touch with Young Healthwatch Westminster by emailing Alex or message us on Instagram. You can also visit our webpage which has a lot of information on how you can find support for your mental health.

Young Healthwatch Westminster Blog: Self Care Week

Meet Ava, one of our newest young volunteers, and passionate advocate of empowering young people to speak about mental health. To mark Self Care Week, Ava has written a blog entry to give you an insight into her world, and to offer some tips for other young people out there.

“I think sometimes it is difficult to understand how to look after yourself in these challenging times. You may get angry at yourself or suddenly feel sad for no reason, and that’s okay – we all feel like that sometimes. The most important thing to understand is that you’re not the only one who is down sometimes or can’t manage all the challenges that life throws at you, you are one of many. My advice to you, as we enter self care week is to attempt things slowly, when you are shown a task that you feel you can’t face, whether that be homework, volunteering, a new activity or something entirely different, the first thing to do is to break it down completely. Step by step, know where the first step is and then move onto the second when you feel ready. Most importantly, let people know you need help. It may seem to you like you don’t want to look “silly” asking for help, but just know that if we don’t ask for help in our lives, how are we going to learn how to do things? It’s not silly to ask for help, sometimes it is necessary.

Another thing to note, is sometimes you should take a break that is solely for you. Not for your homework, your family or your social media needs. Just for you, relax, do nothing. And remember if you feel like you are wasting time, note that you are thinking and sometimes it is good to do a little bit of self-reflection to assess how you feel about things, whether that be lockdown, school life, home life, work or friendships, its important to know how you feel so that you can understand yourself a little better – there is no harm in that. And if you feel you need to talk to somebody, there are always people available to listen to you. Whether that be your own personal group or someone outside, I’m sure they will be there to support you and listen to your needs.

So, take care and remember it’s okay to feel how you are feeling, to ask for help and to take some time just for yourself. That’s the best way to grow and develop, because you are listening to yourself and understanding your own mind before doing other things that may need your own personal input. A lot of the time people and work want your perspective. Because you are unique.”

 

Your thoughts

Would you like to know more about what we do or the support that is out there? To get in touch with Young Healthwatch Westminster, you can email Alex or message us on Instagram. You can also visit our webpage which has a lot of information on how you can find support for your mental health.

Improving public health messaging: what we have learnt from recent engagement work

At the moment, awareness of public health messaging is particularly important. A key part of our role at Healthwatch Central West London is raising awareness of Government and NHS public health messaging and working to ensure these messages are available to everybody.

 

A government advert telling people to stay at home from earlier this year. “Coronavirus Advert, Bristol, UK” by KSAG Photography is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

When the pandemic took hold earlier this year, we began running focus group and interview sessions with local organisations in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea. We wanted to reach people who are under-represented in conversations about health and social care and ensure their voices are heard during this challenging period. One thing we wanted to know was how well public health messages were being communicated. We wanted to find out what different communities needed in order to be aware of Government and NHS messages.

 

As part of this work, in July we awarded the French African Welfare Association (FAWA) a grant, through our Small Grants programme, to carry out a series of interviews with local people from French-speaking African communities in west London.

 

Over the course of our interviews, participants told us of the stigma attached to COVID-19 in their communities. Some interviewees told us that they had experienced stigma themselves after contracting the disease. Others told us that they had experienced familial stigma after a relative died of COVID-19.

 

“Some interviewees told us that they had experienced stigma themselves after contracting the disease. Others told us that they had experienced familial stigma after a relative died of COVID-19.”

 

The stigma attached to COVID-19 has important implications for the communication of public health messaging. One interviewee told us that people they knew were reluctant to engage with the Track and Trace system as a result. Another interviewee expressed wariness of the testing system after being in hospital with COVID-19 for three weeks.

 

It seems that the stigma attached to COVID-19 has caused people to disengage with official COVID-19 related measures and messages. This may present a barrier to the effective distribution of important Government and NHS public health messages within some communities. Local Public Health needs to work with communities to find a way to share national Government guidance and advice with local people. 

 

Through our interviews with FAWA we heard that people shared alternative information privately, often via messaging apps like WhatsApp. This information often directly contradicted official public health messaging from the Government and the NHS.

 

“A number of interviewees told us that they regularly drink a mixture of ginger, garlic, limes and honey after being advised that this would protect them against COVID-19 by contacts on WhatsApp.”

 

Interviewees told us of alternative treatments and measures they took after being advised by friends or relatives. A number of interviewees, for instance, told us that they regularly drink a mixture of ginger, garlic, limes and honey after being advised that this would protect them against COVID-19 by contacts on WhatsApp. Current Government and NHS advice is that such home remedies have no impact in preventing us from contracting COVID-19.

 

We remain in a period in which the effective communication of public health messages is vitally important.

 

Our engagement work with FAWA has shown that there are still vital improvements that need to take place to ensure that important Government and NHS public health messages are trusted and available for everyone.

 

Public health messages need to be adapted and targeted. A blanket, universal approach to public health messaging is inadequate and may not reach some communities. Messages need to be clear and concise, understandable and translated into the many languages spoken by communities across the country. Our engagement work suggests that some communities have a lack of trust in public health messaging. Local Public Health and the Clinical Commissioning Groups must work with local communities and us at Healthwatch Central West London to make sure information and guidance is available to everyone.

 

We remain in a period in which the effective communication of public health messages is very important. As a local Healthwatch, we will continue to work to raise awareness of these messages, engage with local community groups and people, and feedback what we have learnt from our work to influence health and social care communication and provision across Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.

 

We would like to say a massive thank you to FAWA and to everyone who participated in the interviews for sharing their experiences.

 

Would you like to know more about the current public health advice for Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea? Read our COVID-19 information guidance here.

 

Get in touch 

We want to hear your experiences during this outbreak.

  • If you wish to just leave us a single comment on how you have been impacted by Coronavirus, please click here
  • Send a text or a video to our Whatsapp number: 07849 08 40 14
  • Join the conversation on our NextDoor group
  • Be part of our Facebook group
  • Send us a picture that reflects how you are coping on our Instagram
  • E-mail us
  • Call us on 020 8968 7049

If you have any questions, or would like to find out more about what we do, you can follow us on Twitter @healthwatchcwl or email info@healthwatchcentralwestlondon.org

How the pandemic is changing the training we offer

With fewer in-person patients, GP reception staff are spending more time each day on the phone

At Healthwatch Central West London, the way we carry out our work has changed substantially over the past eight months. We are not in the office anymore and have not been since March. We are not even all in the same country at the moment – with some of us working remotely as far away as Greece! This has meant we have had to change and adapt normal working practices. Lots of our in-person engagement work has had to be moved online, and we meet as a team, virtually, more regularly to help us all keep in touch.

 

Despite all these changes, the nature of our work has not changed. Our primary aim is still to listen to and amplify patients’ voices and ensure that everyone’s needs are reflected in discussions around local health and social care provision. Since March, we have done lots of work listening to local people about their experiences of the pandemic. We have been collecting responses from people to our survey Your Experience Matters. We have also been working with other community groups to gain insight into the specific challenges this period has presented to different groups of people.

 

“Our primary aim is still to listen to and amplify patients’ voices and ensure that everyone’s needs are reflected in discussions around local health and social care provision”

 

A key part of our work at any time is carrying out training for healthcare staff. Recently, we carried out some training in GP practices in Hammersmith & Fulham with reception staff. The training was around the future role of reception staff in GP practices. Normally, this kind of training takes place in person. At the moment, however, we have had to move our training online. In some ways, this changed the nature of the training we provide.

 

We found there were a number of challenges to carrying out this training online. Ensuring that everyone had access to the equipment necessary was difficult. We had expected each participant to be using their own computer, when actually many people were sharing in groups of up to three. This meant we had to adapt quickly: it was difficult to be interactive and use the video conferencing software as we had planned. It was also sometimes difficult to understand everything that was being said: participants were wearing masks which made seeing who was speaking tricky.

 

“Virtual training allows for much greater flexibility”

 

That being said, there are benefits to carrying out training virtually. For starters, it allows for more flexibility from everyone involved. Without travel times, the commitment for already very busy GP staff is much less. Sessions can be organised around their availability. This also removes some important access barriers: it allows for those who might otherwise have been unable to spare an afternoon for our training to also have their voices heard. Virtual training can also allow us to put staff from different GP practices in touch with each other easily, helping people to make important connections and share vital advice and feedback with us and with each other.

 

“Although there are challenges, this period is an opportunity”

 

Although we are having to change and alter the way we work, virtual training can still be very useful both for us and for participants. The challenges we faced carrying out our recent training sessions were relatively minor: we can learn from them and change our training to accommodate people’s needs. We definitely gained a huge amount of insight from our training with GP reception staff, despite not meeting in person.

 

As we continue to work within the constraints imposed on us by COVID-19, we will have to continue learning and adapting how we work to make sure we are speaking to as many people as possible. Over this period we have learnt that virtual training sessions can be an effective and accessible option, for GP practices and other service providers, that we will continue to offer in the future.

 

Get in touch

If you’d like to know more about the training we offer, or have any other questions about what we do, you can follow us on Twitter @healthwatchcwl or email us at info@healthwatchcentralwestlondon.org

Young Healthwatch Westminster mental health session with the Youth Councils

 

On the 3rd of November, Young Healthwatch Westminster (YHWW) brought together Westminster Youth Council and Kensington & Chelsea Youth Council for the first – of hopefully many – future bi-borough meetings. In attendance, with the Youth Council members was the Westminster lead, Shofa, as well as, Reginald and Hasheam who lead the RBKC Youth Council. Our wonderful chair and the chair of the Westminster Youth Council, Civan led the Mental Health session on behalf of YHWW with co-volunteer, Aaniya.

 

To start with, the members were asked where young people would go to for mental health support and the answers were quite varied. Some platforms considered were Kooth, Place 2 Be, The Mix, as well as, CAMHS, talking to teachers, friends and family. In the discussion, it was also mentioned that going to your GP is a great way to get mental health support.

 

To get young people thinking about mental health in a different way, Civan led the first part of the activity, in which he asked his peers to draw a fictional character. The young people had to create a persona for this person, and decide their characters’ name, age, gender, likes and dislikes in 10 minutes – the drawings were great!

 

Aaniya then led the second part of the activity asking the members of the council to think about what their young person is going through, how they have been positively and/or negatively by Lockdown and if they were a friend of this person how they would support them. This was a great way that the young people could project their feelings on to a fictional character without the fear of being judged and, hear what other people have been experiencing.

 

Here is what some of the members had to say about the activity:

 

‘I found it interesting to see what everyone else thought of and I think I enjoyed it because it made me feel less alone even though these were not reflected on us it just helped to talk about it and reflect. I also think it made us think that everyone is going through something and lockdown has been hard on all of us and we should be kind to everyone not knowing what they are going through.’

 

‘I really enjoyed creating Bob’

 

An essential piece of our research at YHWW, is understanding young people’s thoughts on ‘mental health’ and the services that are in place. We would appreciate it if you could share your thoughts and views with us, to help us gather crucial information through this anonymous survey: www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/VLVM5R3

 

If you are aged between 11 – 25 and live, work or study in or around the borough of Westminster, you can apply to join YHWW by emailing Alex on alex.weston@healthwatchcentralwestlondon.org or call us on 020 8968 7049 and ask for an application form.

 

For more information, resources and guidance check out our Instagram @yhwwestminster and our webpage.

Learning lessons from the lockdown: how we use technology

As we adapt to living with COVID-19 long-term, technology has become increasingly central to how many of us communicate. With opportunities for face-to-face interaction limited, technology like video calling software has provided somewhat of an alternative. From doctors’ appointments to family catchups, how we communicate, receive information, and interact with others has changed considerably.

 

This has had a substantial impact on health and social care provision. When the pandemic took hold earlier this year, we began running focus group and interview sessions with local organisations in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea. We wanted to reach people who are under-represented in conversations about health and social care and ensure their voices are heard during this challenging period. In many of our focus groups and interviews, the changing role of technology in our lives proved to be an important topic for discussion.

 

This was certainly true in our focus group session with six members of LEGS, an organisation which provides exercise groups, led by physiotherapists, for people who have had a stroke or who live with a neurological condition.

 

“Some things you can’t just have on the phone. I go from someone saying, ‘you must come in and have your treatment’, to someone saying, ‘now you can’t’”

 

From listening to participants’ stories in the session, we found that a lack of access to and understanding of new technology often presents a significant barrier to receiving help and support. Participants told us that, in many cases, technological solutions did not provide an adequate replacement for existing arrangements. One participant told us that “being with the person you are talking to really does help”, while another said, “some things you can’t just have on the phone. I go from someone saying, ‘you must come in and have your treatment’, to someone saying, ‘now you can’t’.”

“359/365 Facetime” by ellenmac11 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

This is a particular issue for those who are less used to using technology regularly. During the session one participant told us that “I am using Zoom now, through LEGS, but [my physiotherapist] is using something called Attend Everywhere. I am not young, so using all this new technology is very stressful for me.” This echoes what we have been told a lot over the past months: it is not just access to technology that can present a barrier to receiving help and support. Feeling confident using technology is important too.

 

Unfamiliarity with technology, or a lack of access to it, can have knock-on effects. Many participants in the session told us that over this period they have felt stressed, isolated and uncertain as a direct result of technological barriers.

 

“Video calls are a great improvement to phone calls”

 

However, some participants in the session did tell us that in certain situations technology has been used well as a replacement for physical meetings and appointments. One participant, for instance, told us that “phone consultations with a GP could be quite good, as you can get things down on the phone which can be useful at the time.” They added that “video calls are a great improvement to phone calls.”

 

There certainly is scope for good use of technology in health and social care provision. In our session with LEGS, those who were already well equipped and confident in using technology tended to be the most positive. Encouraging those who can use technology to do so, can help reduce the strain on health and social care providers, avoid unnecessary face-to-face interaction, and possibly make some appointments, like initial GP consultations, less time consuming for patients and doctors.

 

Yet an awareness that not everyone has access to technology, and an understanding that some people, regardless of access, are not comfortable using it for their care, is crucial. Provision for those who do not or cannot use technology needs to remain a vital part of all health and social care services.

 

From listening to patients over the last few months we have had a number of discussions around the use of technology. Our new use of technology has provided a serious challenge to some, while others have been able to adapt more easily. Ultimately, as long as we are living with COVID-19 restrictions, a balance needs to be struck. Support and arrangements for those who may be otherwise excluded from services need to be provided in systems which also allow those who can engage virtually to do so.

 

If you’d like to read more of our work during this period, you can browse our reports here.

Get in touch

We want to hear your experiences during this outbreak. Take our ‘Your Experience Matters’ survey now.

If you have any questions, or would like to find out more about what we do, you can follow us on Twitter @healthwatchcwl or email info@healthwatchcentralwestlondon.org

Young Healthwatch Westminster: COVID-19 Blog

Young Healthwatch Westminster member, Rupert, gives his view and experience of the coronavirus outbreak There has been a great deal of conversation regarding the importance of each of us taking care of our mental health during this global pandemic. And rightly so – this virus is deadly, highly contagious and can affect anybody of any …