Healthwatch West Berkshire’s 2019/20 Annual Report highlights important issues

Healthwatch West Berkshire (HWWB) is the statutory organisation whose role is to listen to the West Berkshire community and ensure that everyone living within our area is heard by health and social care services.

After another year of high-speed change, especially in Health services, with the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) publication to additionally monitor, HWWB’s 2019/20 Annual Report “Guided by You”, details its prestigious award at the National Healthwatch England Conference for its Rough Sleeper work and spotlights worrying issues swirling around Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic, Refugee (BAMER) inequalities; dissatisfaction with Maternity services locally; concerns about mental health (MH) especially for children/ CAMHS; improving cancer services locally; disability inequalities increasing; NHS restructuring and of course Covid-19.

The HWWB Annual Report 2019/20 highlights how HWWB remains ahead of much of the country in the health and social care areas it works in: the local BAMER community took on increased significance as Covid-19 rapidly expanded its effects, meanwhile the long-awaited MH Crisis Service review and newly established services in spring 2020, were a positive bonus from our work via the Thinking Together events. HWWB’s involvement in the joint Rough Sleeping Boards continued to show results, while the challenges for the disabled to simply take part in everyday life highlights the need for our constant vigilance.

Our Annual Report additionally highlights HWWB’s concerns regarding the NHS LTP reforms, which with the possible super merger of the Bucks, Oxon, Berks West (BOB) Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) will take commissioning further away from local people. Going forward, we remain involved with senior NHS Boards discussing the future for the BOB.

“I take great pride in the fact that I can report that the work of HWWB has been recognised nationally,’ said Mike Fereday, HWWB Chairman. Healthwatch West Berkshire has continued to make a very real impact on local health and care services provided to the local community that we serve”.

As well as reporting on the past year’s work, our Annual Report demonstrates our priorities for the year ahead, illustrating how HWWB will take an active role in the Covid-19 pandemic ‘recovery’ of services, ensuring the public’s voice is heard. Grave concerns have been raised nationwide regarding social care, therefore, we intend focussing more attention, than in previous years, on care homes and domiciliary care; so that this area is not forgotten.

Young people have been hugely affected by Covid-19, not necessarily impacting on their own health, but radically affecting their normal way of life and the way their futures map forward. As a pandemic on this scale is new to us all we have no idea of the effect this will have on their mental health or in fact everyone’s in the future.

Within the Annual Report Andrew Sharp, Chief Officer Healthwatch West Berkshire comments: “… I felt what we did going forward really mattered to us –and then Covid-19 arrived, just after Christmas and our year changed. We had identified a challenging work plan going forward before the Covid-19 pandemic changed all our lives. With the dreadful loss of so many lives in West Berkshire and across the country we have changed not only how we operate day-to-day, but also what our future priorities need to be.”

The current unprecedented circumstances mean that feedback has never been more important, or needed, for providers of Health and Social care in our community, who themselves are stepping into an unknown and need the public to help them tread wisely in delivering services going forward. Therefore, at this time our community’s comments both good and bad, will help determine how services are operating. The ‘new normal’ of online consultations, rather than face-to-face, should not come at the cost of creating new inequalities.

HWWB is here to listen and deliver the feedback on the post pandemic services in West Berkshire. As Sharp says, HWWB needs to ensure “…the local voices are not drowned out and that the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak do not cement-in inequalities already in place, or in fact create new ones –HWWB is the people’s voice, we are the people’s champion.”

If you would like to read more about the work undertaken by HWWB, or read the report in full, visit the Healthwatch West Berkshire website at: www.heathwatchwestberks.org.uk – or to get involved and volunteer with the HWWB team, telephone the team at: 01635 760 341/ 07713 196 801.

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