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

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:


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 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

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 …

A time to reflect….

  Lockdown   Yes there is fear. Yes there is isolation. Yes there is panic buying. Yes there is sickness. Yes there is even death.   But, They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise You can hear the birds again. They say that after just a few weeks of quiet The …

Answer The Public Blog

Here at Healthwatch Central West London, we exist to amplify the voices of YOU, the local residents, and to champion your rights in how health and social care is delivered and designed. We are continually looking to break down barriers that prevent you from accessing the health and social care services you need.

With this in mind, we are launching a new series of blog entries where we will answer some of the most common questions people search about us online on search engines. Our hope is that this will help to strengthen our connection with the community we serve and ensure that you know that we are here to listen to you.


Why was Healthwatch set up?

Healthwatch England was established as an effective, independent consumer champion for health and social care. It also provides a leadership and support role for the local Healthwatch network, and Healthwatch Central West London is one part of this network.

NHS England and Healthwatch England share a common goal of making sure that the interests of people are at the heart of everything we do.

In June 2015, NHS England and Healthwatch England signed a Memorandum of Understanding signalling a commitment to working together and challenging each other when necessary to support our shared purpose of improving health and well being outcomes for consumers, including patients, carers, families and communities.


What does Healthwatch Central West London do?

We are part of the statutory regulatory framework of the NHS. Our specific role is to conduct research with local people and groups to discover what they like about services and what could be improved, and then share these views with those with the power to make change happen. We are also proud to be a source of information on local health and social care, presenting our findings at health conferences and running training courses for volunteers and
service users.

Each year we have particular areas of focus across our boroughs and we work on these with our Local Committees and commissioners to ensure that these reflect what we have heard from the public.


Who commissions Healthwatch Central West London?

Healthwatch England is funded by the Department of Health. The Department of Health then pass this funding on to each local authority in the country who decide how to fund us.


Look out for the next installment in this series, coming soon!



Would you like to know more about becoming a member of Healthwatch Central West London? Click here for more details.

Join our Twitter conversation @HealthwatchCWL

Student Volunteering Week: Meet Aliki

This Student Volunteering Week, we wanted to hear from our wonderful volunteers, without whom our work would not be possible. We asked Aliki Myrianidi, who joined us as a Dignity Champion Volunteer, to share her motivation for volunteering and her experiences of working with Healthwatch Central West London.

Why I chose to volunteer with Healthwatch Central West London…

I first met one of Healthwatch’s engagement officers at a Health & Wellbeing workshop organised by St. Mungo’s, and we started talking about the organisation’s work with health and social care patients in the local area. I found the discussion so interesting that I went to the volunteer officer to learn more. In particular, I found Healthwatch’s prioritisation of patients’ views, and the ways in which they take these views into consideration, very interesting. The work that they were doing was unlike anything that I had seen before, which made me want to get involved.

What my role involves…

My role is that of a Dignity Champion, which means helping people who receive health and social care in Central West London to be seen and heard. I visit care homes, health centres and hospital wards to speak to patients and care home residents about their experiences. I gather their thoughts and opinions, along with my own observations about the environment, as research for Healthwatch.

What I like the most about volunteering with Healthwatch…

Volunteering is a very rewarding experience – you meet people from all backgrounds, make new friends and learn new things. You can develop your skills through the mentoring and training provided, which in turn helps you to shape your community and build a better future for those around you.

The opportunities that volunteering has opened up for me…

Since volunteering as a Dignity Champion, I have been hired as a Dignity Champion Officer. My most recent work for the organisation has included writing reports for our visits last year, and arranging more visits for 2019. I now also train volunteers myself, and I recently provided volunteer training on dementia awareness. I enjoy being able to share my experiences and the skills that I have learnt with the new volunteers joining us at Healthwatch.

Young Carers Awareness Day 2019

Are you under 18 and care for a family member or friend? Do you help them with practical tasks, such as shopping, cooking and cleaning? Or perhaps you give them their medication, while also getting them dressed in the morning? If this sounds like you, then you are a young carer.

Help from the council

Young carers are entitled to get help and support from their local council, to make their life and their caring role easier.

The council’s family team will ask you what support you need and can provide you with:

  • an assessment of your needs
  • one to one support if you have a high level of need
  • advice to support you in your caring role
  • information about other supports services and activities to take part in

You can contact the council directly. Or, if you prefer, you can ask someone you know to contact them for you – maybe a friend or relative, a teacher, or your family doctor. Don’t be afraid to ask – it is important to get the help you are entitled to.

Who to contact:

  • London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham Family Support Service – 020 8753 6600
  • Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Early Help for Families Team – 020 7598 4601 or 020 7361  4129 or
  • Westminster City Council Early Help Service – 020 7641 400

Local organisations

  • Family Friends – Family Friends is a charity which supports disadvantaged families via a network of trained volunteers. They provide befriending and mentoring services to families living in deprived areas of West London.
  • Insight Young People – Insight supports young people, families and children, who are affected by drugs and alcohol use in Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster.

Other organisations that are able to help

  • Carers Trust – The Carers Trust Network supports carers locally through a unique UK-wide network of Network Partners.
  • Carers UK – As the UK’s only national membership charity for carers, Carers UK is both a support network and a movement for change.
  • The Children’s Society Include Service – The Include service is home to the national young carers initiative supporting children and young people who care for parents, siblings or others who suffer from chronic illness or disability

Know your rights

Young Carers Know Your Rights