Last week, Healthwatch volunteer Rob Guyton talked to us about his experiences of life in lockdown, how he and his partner have managed and what their experiences of care have been like.
"Myself and my partner, we are both shielded and have been fairly locked down for the last 17 or 18 weeks."
"Her in particular, because she has cancer and has chemotherapy and therefore her immune system is particularly compromised."
Rob and his partner's experience of using health services during the pandemic have been positive. And it's clear how important the relationship is with the teams who care for them, something that Robs describes as, "almost a personal relationship."
"...everything that we've had to do has worked very well. The remote consultations are friendly and useful."
And their experiences of face to face care - getting blood tests and scans at the hospital and the local GP surgery - have made them feel, "secure".
Shielding will be pausing at the end of July, and Rob and his partner have been taking the opportunity to start meeting with family and friends a little more. But always being very thoughtful that things like hugs and high-fives will have to wait a little longer.
Share your views
We want to hear about your experiences of health, social care and community support during the coronavirus crisis. Particularly if you've been shielding or using health and care services.
Please share your thoughts in our survey - it takes 10 minutes and by taking part you will help improve our local NHS and care services for everybody.
Making a difference
Rob also talks about why he makes time in his busy life to volunteer as a Community Listener for our Healthwatch.
Our fantastic team of volunteers help us capture people’s views about health and care and then use that feedback to improve local services.
While our current face-to-face engagement is on pause due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many of our volunteers are still active from home – promoting our work and involved in other projects with us.
“My parents and my own children are all people who volunteer and give back or have given back in their communities.
“Seeing my son on his VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) placement in Hanoi made me feel so proud that I also applied to volunteer as an English language co-ordinator at a teacher training college in Ethiopia for two years.
“The post was about improving teachers’ language and classroom skills and helping the staff at the college too.
“It was a very simple life but the people were wonderful and the culture was amazing. It was a huge growing experience where I probably gained more than I could give.
The former deputy head teacher talks about the pull of volunteering and it’s clear how much satisfaction and personal gain he’s enjoyed.
Whether it’s strengthening education for some of the world’s poorest children or delivering leaflets in his Abbey neighbourhood, the value of volunteering runs deep.
When he moved to Cambridge seven years ago, health issues for his partner and an increase in caring for his parents had meant that volunteering had to take a back-seat.
He’d moved from Suffolk where he had served as a parish councillor, a school governor and also helped set up and run a Good Neighbour scheme. And he was feeling the loss of helping out and supporting the issues he cared about.
“I was looking to fill the gap, so I went along to a volunteers’ fair and the first person to approach me was Heather, Volunteer Manager at Healthwatch.
“She was very persuasive so I didn’t get much further,” he jokes. “But the opportunity to volunteer at Healthwatch and improve local health and care services did appeal to me,” he recalls.
The work he did at Addenbrooke’s Hospital is helping the Government to set new targets for A&E that reflect what is important to patients.
During lockdown, he's been working on our information audit of GP websites in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough – findings are being announced next month.
Why Rob volunteers for Healthwatch
Rob says his work with Healthwatch feels worthwhile because it can mean people get a helping hand to highlight health or care struggles, have a say in improving services and get help accessing information.
“Not everyone is as confident as I am about raising issues or speaking up about things.
“At one fete, I was very struck by a woman who had been experiencing mental health difficulties. She was a grandmother, there with her daughter and grandchildren, and she was just so candid about all the problems she’d been facing.
“I felt quite privileged to write down her experiences.
“At Addenbrooke’s, it struck me that amid all the worry and fear that patients were clearly experiencing, they were still keen to express their views.
“So I do feel valuable in capturing those experiences. And if they are relayed back to the services and it can make a difference, it’s a great thing to be involved in.”
Take the survey
Rob explains that the whole purpose of Healthwatch is to feed your experiences back to the people who make decisions about health and care services.
And every survey that gets filled in helps build a clearer picture of how services are working for people and where things could be improved.
We will share what you tell us with the people planning the local and national response to the pandemic. And this will help them protect everyone's health and wellbeing now and in the future.