The NHS in Devon has hosted the national team from health and social care champions Healthwatch England; an independent body, which uses patient feedback to improve standards of care.
The team, led by national Chair Sir Robert Francis, began their visit at Exeter Mosque, which has worked closely with the NHS to support worshippers to have their Covid-19 vaccination.
The Healthwatch team also visited Torbay Community Helpline and Hub, which has offered mental health support, referred people to foodbanks and offered financial advice to local people throughout the pandemic.
The team were shown around Jasmine Lodge, a new Mother and Baby Unit, and other services at Devon Partnership NHS Trust and visited NHS Nightingale Hospital Exeter, which now offers rheumatology services and diagnostic screening, has a Centre of Excellence for Eyes providing cataract treatments and has operating theatres for planned orthopaedic procedures such as hip and knee replacements.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, Chair of the Integrated Care System for Devon said, “We are delighted to have hosted the national Healthwatch team, in particular Sir Robert Francis, who has been so influential in championing patient safety. This was an opportunity to show how we are working with partners, as we prepare to bring services together in a new Integrated Care System in order to improve care and the experience of those who use them.”
Healthwatch England’s Chair, Sir Robert Francis, previously chaired the public inquiry into patient care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and the Freedom to Speak up Review, which led to the creation of Freedom to Speak Up Guardians within NHS organisations. Sir Robert said: “It’s been a great pleasure to visit some of the health and care organisations that are having a positive impact on communities in Devon. On behalf of the Healthwatch England committee, thank you to the staff, volunteers and service users for giving us their time and for sharing their experiences with us.”
“I am grateful to the NHS Devon CCG for the opportunity to learn about the work of their health and care partners. For example, amongst the many amazing people and projects we visited across the county, we met the brilliant staff of the Nightingale Hospital Exeter, a facility built to treat patients at the height of the pandemic. Now repurposed and providing a range of orthopaedic, ophthalmology, diagnostic and rheumatology services, the Nightingale Hospital Exeter is greatly reducing waiting times and improving access for patients.”
Sir John Oldham, Healthwatch England committee member and former Care Quality Commission Senior Independent Director said: “The places we have visited have been inspirational. The passion and energy of everyone we met shone through and seeing what is delivered at the Torbay Community helpline just restores your faith in humanity in these troubled times. I have no doubt that collectively the innovations we have been privileged enough to see will make a real difference to the population within One Devon.”
Chief Executive of Devon Partnership NHS Trust, Melanie Walker, said: “Our visitors from Healthwatch England took a great interest in our work to support people with mental health, learning disability and neurodiversity needs. We were proud to show them around our Mother and Baby Unit, two adult acute psychiatric wards, a rehabilitation ward and our Place of Safety.”
Local Healthwatch bodies helped organise the visit. Pat Harris, Strategic Lead for Healthwatch in Devon, Plymouth, and Torbay said: “We are very happy to have welcomed Sir Robert and the Healthwatch England Committee to Devon to find out more about the way we make sure real public feedback is used to improve care in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay. We looked forward to sharing the work we have undertaken throughout COVID and ways in which we adapted to support the local community throughout.
“Everywhere in the country has an independent local Healthwatch nearby, and it is so important to hear from Healthwatch England about how they are ensuring nationally that NHS leaders and other care providers listen to what the public have to say, as well as how other local Healthwatch are making a real difference locally. Here at Healthwatch in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay we have good working relationships with local health and social care providers and we are delighted that some were able to join us in welcoming Sir Robert and the Healthwatch England Committee to the South West.”
Healthwatch England is an independent statutory body, which champions health and social care. It gathers patients’ experiences of GPs, hospitals, dentists, pharmacies, care homes and other support services and feeds them back to NHS leaders and other decision makers, to help improve standards of care. Last year Healthwatch helped nearly a million people to have their say on services and get the information and advice they needed.
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