When the pandemic took hold earlier this year, we wanted to reach people in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea who are under-represented in conversations about health and social care and ensure their voices are heard during this challenging period. To do this, we collaborated with local community groups to run focus group sessions, interviews, and surveys. Our latest report presents the results of a survey carried out with Breathe Easy Westminster.
A number of recurring issues and themes have emerged over the course of our collaborative work on the impact of COVID-19. Many of these themes were seen in our work with Breathe Easy Westminster.
The issue of digital exclusion has been frequently discussed across much of our recent engagement work on COVID-19.
Evidence in our report shows that the issue of digital exclusion is complex. There are many obstacles to digital exclusion, and many ways people may be digitally excluded. People may be able to access emails on their smartphone, for example, but lack the knowledge or support to be able to use the internet to find information or to communicate with healthcare providers.
In our survey with Breathe Easy Westminster, we asked respondents how they found the support they needed. At 44%, the phone was significantly the most popular method of seeking support. Around a fifth of respondents (21%) searched the internet, while a similar number (18%) received emails. It was particularly interesting to learn that significantly more people used the phone for information than the internet.
Digital exclusion is an important issue. At the moment we are working on a project to engage further with the issue in the coming months.
Visibility of services
Another recurring issue throughout our engagement work concerns patients’ awareness of local services. A high number of participants across all our recent work have been unaware of all the services and care options which are available to them.
For instance, respondents to our survey with Breathe Easy Westminster were asked whether they were aware of social prescribing, the Care Information Exchange and Coordinate My Care. In all cases, two-thirds of respondents were not aware of these services.
Availability of prescription medicine
A further key issue highlighted through our survey work with Breathe Easy Westminster was the availability of prescription medication and non-emergency care during the pandemic. Across our engagement work, although the majority of patients we have heard from have been able to access prescription medication during this period, we have still heard from many people who have had trouble receiving the medicine and support they need.
In our survey with Breathe Easy Westminster, we asked respondents if they had faced difficulty accessing regular medicine from their local or hospital pharmacy. the majority of respondents (86%) indicated that they had no problem accessing regular medication. However, over 10% of respondents had experienced difficulty. The accessibility of prescriptions remains an important issue.
From listening to local people over the past few months, we have been told of huge access barriers to health and social care services that remain in Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea. As we move into a new phase of measures to contain and treat COVID-19, it is vital that the voices of patients and carers are heard. We will continue to engage with local communities, share what people are telling us, and present what we have learnt in order to influence the provision of local health and social care services.
You can read the full report now. We would like to say a massive thank you to Breathe Easy Westminster for their hard work on this project.
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