Eight ... and counting

Our Healthwatch is eight years old this month. Here, CEO Sandie Smith reflects on a unique 12 months. And thanks everyone who has supported us and shared their experiences to help us learn from the pandemic.
woman smiling into camera

We are now eight years old – and growing up quickly.

Like all of you, we have had a year of struggles and worries and a strangeness we never imagined. But, like you also, we have had to adapt and draw on depths of strength we never knew we had.

We have learned a great deal over the last 12 months. As well as rapid shifts to adapt to online working, our team has found new ways to support our communities to get the health and care they need.  

The biggest lesson has been listening to you and learning from your experiences of the pandemic.
— Sandie Smith, CEO of Healthwatch Cambridgeshire and Healthwatch Peterborough

Working together in new ways

The past year has seen big changes in services and we have found opportunities to work more closely with our local NHS and care teams than ever before.

Initially, many services were suspended while the health and care system responded to the pandemic.

We used that opportunity to get out into our own local neighbourhoods and many of our Healthwatch team supported our local mutual aid groups, forging new links at the same time as helping our communities.

Thank you for your support

As the year went on, many commissioners and providers have asked for our insight so they can better understand what it has been like for people across our area.

We were able to gather further insight at a national and local level. For example, learning about people’s experiences leaving hospital, what people think is important when assessing A&E performance and what care was like during the first wave of Covid.

So a massive thank you to everyone who has contributed their stories and helped us help services adapt and change.

Looking forward

We are all hoping that we are now starting to see the final stages of the pandemic.

The vaccination roll out across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough has been truly magnificent and we know how hard our fabulous health and care staff are working to keep us protected.

However, the reality is that as services recover from the impact of Covid-19, there are going to be longer waits for people to get their treatments.

Our Healthwatch is working hard to help the decision-makers understand what is important to people who are waiting. And that people need accurate, simple and timely information and someone to contact with queries and worries.

Big changes ahead

It seems incredible that the next 12 months might be as significant as the ones we have just lived through.

However, we do know that the year ahead does signal big changes, not least the local health and care system will be evolving into an Integrated Care System, with more emphasis on local ‘place-based’ and neighbourhood services.

The way health and care is planned, paid for and delivered is going to change.  And this new approach is all about joining up services for people in local areas.

The aim is to break down the barriers between NHS and council services and hospitals and family doctors. And provide more care in people’s homes and the community, so that the growing numbers of older people and those living with long-term conditions can be supported.

As ever, our Healthwatch will be working hard to make sure that local people’s voices are heard and at the heart of all these changes.

We're here for you

We will continue to present your experiences to those making decisions.  And we will make sure that reducing health inequalities – and giving everyone the same opportunities to lead a healthy life, no matter where they live or who they are – is central to every decision made.

We understand that some people have been ‘left behind’ during the past year, especially people who have limited, or no computer and internet access.

So please do continue to help us help services to bridge these gaps, by telling us your stories and giving us your views, experiences and insights.

Without you and your feedback, Healthwatch cannot be Healthwatch.       

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