Welcome back to another blog by Matthew Mckenzie, carer, carer rep and Governor for South London and Maudsley. I am also a member of the Lewisham Mental Health Connection and carer rep for Experts by Experience. I am a member of some other organisations and NHS Trusts, but one organisation that helps raise awareness and involvement for Health in the community is Healthwatch.
So on the 19th of March, I headed over to the London Borough of Southwark to attend the Healthwatch Southwark Event. This event took place at Walworth Methodist Church and started around 4:00 pm. Before I continue, what is Healthwatch all about?
Healthwatch gives people a powerful voice locally and nationally. At a local level, local Healthwatch will work to help local people get the best out of their local health and social care services.
Now Healthwatch Southwark priorities are
Healthwatch Southwak Updates
The event was called ‘You Said, We Did!” and focused on the stories and views from the community of Southwark and having those views influence the Health and Wellbeing strategy. The Healthwatch forum agenda was as follows where we heard from Aarti the Healthwath Southwark Manager, where she gave the latest healthwatch update. We then heard from Southwark Council on their health and wellbeing strategy. Next was what carers told healthwatch about social care and support and lastly the views of young people about sexual health.
We then had a Q&A session and then table discussions, although oddly enough I couldnt stay for food since I had to get back to my caring role.
So first what did we have to hear from Aarti the Healthwatch Southwark Manager?
Well, most importantly, She explained what Healthwatch is all about. One of Healthwatch’s main functions is to visit services and evaluate their quality. Healthwatch volunteers tend to write reports on these services and can submit recommendations. Healthwatch representatives speak with service users, carers and staff about the use of health services.
Aarti also went on to explain how healthwatch provides information and signposting to those requesting help on services, healthwatch can even tell you how to make a complaint. A very important role for healthwatch is to represent and have a presence on well being boards and health commissioner meetings. Healthwatch would not be much if the community was not involved in giving their stories or feeding back to healthwatch.
If you have had a good or bad experience with the health services, then healthwatch would be more than happy to know. Aarti spoke about the oncoming listening event from Kings college Hospital and other updates.
Southwark’s Health and Wellbeing Strategy
Next up were Rachel and Jin from Southwark Council. They spoke about the Health and Wellbeing board and how the community can and has been influencing their health and wellbeing strategy. Southwark council’s overall mission is to improve the health within Southwark’s residents. This cannot be done by guess work and must involve the views and stories from the community. Representatives from Southwark Council told us more about the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment and how the 1000 stories is influence their strategy.
Carer’s views on social care access and support
Next we head from sec-Chan the Healthwatch Southwark’s Development Officer. She gave updates about the Carer’s Focus Group done with Southwark Carers. Here she spoke on the following.
The experience of a carer’s assessment
The assessment outcome
The cared-for person’s experience of social care services
Sources of information, referrals
Now since my blog is usually about mental health carers or mental health in general. I ll probably have this section take up most of this blog post. The views of carers in southwark when it comes to assessments are as follows.
How accessible respite is given to carers and I am sure many carers wish to see an increase in respite, not to say that they do not enjoy their role as caring, but it is important to have a break.
Carers also gave their views of home carers, although I have a feeling that some carers tend not to be happy about some professional carer services. Other views on the outcome of carer’s assessments is the assessments are not so clear on how money can be spent and even less clear on use of respite and how to access it.
Carer experience would not be fully complete without hearing about the cared-for person’s experience. What did they have to say about the value of care?
Sec-Chan spoke about how
The cared-for felt it should be easier to access information on support
A better need for relationship development with staff/health professionals
A greater need for having carers working together with staff
plus having an increase in all parties accessing information to provide care
As a carer myself, I certain can agree on most of these principles, getting access to your loved one’s information to provide care can be useful, consent I can agree should be sought, but the system still is reluctant to provide even some information for carers, especially when the health situation becomes critical. Unfortunately I can see the law will change only when there are too many cases when the care-for has come to harm or dies because there was lack of intervention.
The presentation on carers continued with how the carers felt about source of information.
Carers felt GPs should signpost more to services
Plus social workers should also not forget to signpost
Hospital discharges were too quick, although some were ok with the discharge process.
As a carer, I would like to issue a warning on the signposting situation. There needs to be a balance were if the GP cannot help or is not specialised in such areas, then they should signpost, but on the other end of the scale what we do not want is health services passing the buck or shifting the burden of care when they are able to advise.
Sec-Chan spoke about the top things carers value in their role, which as a carer myself, I certainly agree on. These were
Better quality care from professional carers.
Advice and support for carers, which is still lacking. No one wants to be given large documentation to read, but explanation and advice can go a long way.
More financial support, since if someone is caring, they aren’t working. If they cannot work, they cannot earn money.
However most important of all is having a plan in place, I would put involvement of a care plan as a critical role of a carer.
We cannot always assume everyone knows what a carer is. So the presentation on carer’s views finished up on the roles of a carer which were
How carer’s provide personal carer, such as cooking, cleaning and transport
Administrative tasks, arranging appointments, medication, correspodnace and follow ups.
There for emotional support and protecting from harm.
Listening to the cared-for and watching for signs of deteriorating health.
Healthwatch southwark arent there to just play postman to represent the community to the health boards or commissioners. Healthwatch wanted to raise awareness of social care, plus for us to have a group discussion about social care. Healthwatch wants to look closely at the assessment process and apply carer’s views on how assessments could be done better.
Healthwatch wants volunteers for mystery shopping, planned service visits and providing feedback. Healthwatch southwark will also look into the incoming care act which takes place in April 2015.
Young People’s views on Sexual Health
Next up was what Young people told healthwatch Southwark on views of sexual health. Healthwatch Southwark have been holding several group discussions with young people on sexual health and on that day is was great to hear young people report back on the group discussions findings.
We heard how difficult it is to tackle mental health stigma amongst young people and adults as well, but sexual health is another stigma that should also be raised. Many young people feel embarrased to talk about sexual health, while other young people feel sexual adventures are no risk. There must be a correct balance, where discussions can be conducted in a safe secure and well informed environment. Healthwatch can offer such discussions, but it will be a challenge to change sexual conduct amongst the young communities.
The young people’s representatives also spoke about YoungMinds and how the organisation help raise and champion mental health causes for young people since unforunately young people are pressured by society and that this pressure can often result in stress, isolation, confusion which can and often causes mental ill health.
The sad news is funding for youngminds campaigns can not last forever, but with young representatives, perhaps they can keep continuing to drive the message of mental wellbeing.
After the break and networking. I decided to visit some stalls. I ended up at several stalls, being
Here I went through several leaflets regarding support for the elderly. The UK is an ageing population and I can see AgeUK playing an even important role in the future, but far more imporant is that we need older people to play some role in healthwatch and speak up about the care and support they recieve for their health. AgeUK offers a lot of support and advice even for carers of the elderly.
Mental Health Promotion team
This is usually the stall I check out first and I was impressed with the array of information. The stall was well laid out and I was very interested to check out the wheel of wellbeing game, which I have played at a carers group. I should try play the game again since it challenges a person to explore and exercise their wellbeing.
Wheel’s for Wellbeing
I used to ride a bike, seriously I did!! Unfortunately I have let my bike rust in the game, but thats no excuse anymore since we have an organisation called wheel’s for wellbeing. Here they allow people a chance to ride bikes to improve health and fitness. This also applies to those who have disabilities. I checked out some of the information at their stall.
With this stall I spoke to the staff representing Southwark carers. We spoke about the new care act coming in April 2015. I was impressed with the carers discussion groups held and also impressed with the array of information shown at the stall.
As usual a healthwatch forum or event would not be complete without a healthwatch stall. I was not disappointed with the large amount of leaflets, booklets and posters. The stall holders were friendly to speak to, although I am fairly well known to them.
Southwark & Lambeth Integrated care
As a carer of someone using the mental health services, I fully well know that physical health is also a priority. So I was happy to see a stall looking into integrated care. I really hope to see this at other boroughs.
After the networking and visits to stalls. We held a group discussion on different tables, which focused on certain topics. If I remember correctly a table looked at social care, while another focused on mental health. I noticed several tables had young people discussing sexual health and its challenges, while another was on access to GPs.
Unfortunately I could not stay long because I had to rush back and carry out caring duties, but again healthwatch southwark carried out a well attended forum. Even though I am from Lewisham, I hope to see more forums in future.
Feel free to visit Healthwatch Southwark site about the event below.