Five challenges Healthwatch board members face

Healthwatch Chairs have been discussing some of the main issues they have faced adapting to the COVID-19 situation over the last few weeks.
Man in suit

1. Adapting to new ways of working

Following Government advice, most board members have switched to working from home. Whilst this has been positive in some ways, it has also meant getting to grips with technology to manage staff and volunteers. Many of you are using online platforms, such as Facebook Workplace, Teams and Zoom to continue holding virtual board meetings, as well as increasing their social media presence.
Find out how we can support you to work remotely.

2. Reprioritising work

One of the main priority areas for Chairs has been reassessing local Healthwatch workplans in light of COVID-19. In line with advice from the Healthwatch England Committee, they have shifted work to focus on four key areas:

  • Supporting the health and care system to get clear and accurate information to communities.
  • Where possible, redeploying staff and volunteers to help the wider community. For example, Healthwatch in Kirklees and Gateshead have started a befriending service, while Healthwatch Somerset are providing support to a local befriending service. Many other Healthwatch will be offering this soon.
  • Continuing to gather feedback about people’s experiences in relation to COVID-19 and raising patient safety concerns in other areas.
  • Ensuring people from disadvantaged backgrounds are not overlooked locally.

Some Healthwatch board members have used this advice to negotiate new projects with their local council and other funders, or to agree how existing projects could be refocused on coronavirus.

Read our guidance for local statutory activities during the COVID-19 outbreak.

3. Continuing to support the public

Your staff and volunteers are usually out and about talking to the public to find out what they think of health and social care services. But due to the pandemic, many of you have started thinking about how to continue to support the public remotely. Some of the ways this is happening is by:

  • Asking people about their experiences online.
  • Holding virtual drop in sessions to help people find the right service.
  • Having easy to read information and advice on Healthwatch websites about coronavirus, as well as to support other areas of health and mental wellbeing.
  • Considering how to reach people who don’t have online access. For example, Healthwatch Richmond has posted a directory with information to local residents, Healthwatch Derbyshire is providing call centre support to their STP, and other Healthwatch have teamed up with community groups to promote the support Healthwatch can provide.

Find out how you can plan your public engagement online.

4. Highlighting issues the public raise

Through engagement work, local Healthwatch have already identified some of the issues that their local communities are facing due to the pandemic. Although some of these concerns are specific to certain parts of the country, such as hospital discharge in rural areas, many are national issues. These include difficulties such as how people should isolate in care homes and access to hospital transport.

Many Chairs also highlighted that people either aren’t aware that some health services (such as maternity, paediatric and adult care) are still running, or are worried they may catch COVID-19 if they attend an appointment.

Please continue to share your local evidence with us, which we pass on to NHS England to help spot national trends. You can do this on Workplace, by emailing, or via the CiviCRM.

5. Funding implications

As well as making significant changes to the way you work, Board members may have to consider funding pressures on local Healthwatch. We have pulled together information on funding your service, what to do if your contract is coming to an end, accessing emergency funding, and how to look after your staff. Remember your Healthwatch England Regional Lead is on hand to discuss any funding issues.

Read our guidance on funding your organisation during COVID-19.

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