Volunteers lead project to help improve A&E care

Healthwatch volunteers investigated the ideas and experiences of people in their local communities as part of a project to help the NHS plan future urgent and emergency care services.
Entrance to Cambridge University Hospitals with ambulance driving in

We recruited and supported a team of twelve Health Champion volunteers from Cambridge, South and East Cambridgeshire as part of an innovative project funded by the local NHS. 

The Health Champions co-designed the questions we asked and promoted the call for experiences in their communities. This included undertaking structured interviews with  people who had visited Addenbrooke’s A&E and running focus groups with young people. 

By working directly in their local communities, they helped the NHS hear from people who may find it harder to share their experience, or access health and care services.  

'The future of urgent and emergency care at Addenbrooke’s Hospital' report, published today, shares their findings. 

Read the report 

Hearing from young people

Health Champion volunteer Lorraine Lofting ran focus groups with 16 young people aged 11 to 17 at Soham Village College. The young people who took part had all used urgent or emergency care services in the last year. Almost half (47%) told us they had a long-term health condition. 

As a trustee at the school and a Lead Governor for mental health, Lorraine is passionate about ensuring that young people's voices are heard. 

"Young people are a harder to reach group and we don’t often hear from them. But they think of things we don’t think of as an adult. They are very honest and very direct and thoughtful and have some really creative ideas about what to do differently."

Lorraine Lofting, Health Champion

The young people generously shared a range of interesting experiences and made a number of helpful suggestions about how care could be improved for people in their age group, including:

  • Make the environment feel safer and more comfortable for young people and children.
  • Provide things for young people and children to do whilst waiting.
  • Improve the way that health professionals talk to young people.
  • Make sure young people only have to tell their story to one health professional and the information is then shared with other health professionals.
  • Keep the young person informed about their assessment, treatment and waiting times.

Boating communities 

Health Champion Sallyann, who is also a waterways Chaplin, helped us listen to the experiences of people in the local boating community who can sometimes find it harder to access health and care services. 

Sallyann supported people to share their experience, telling us, "The one thing that this Covid experience has taught me is the extraordinary effect that talking to people can have on them and on you. It’s so important to reach out to people to hear how they feel and ... to understand them."

"I didn’t know there were so many stories to be told. I did a shout out at church, and I had about four people saying, ‘Can I tell you, my story?’

And then I did something within the boating community and the stories were different. Talking to people is what I really enjoy doing.”


People shared experiences of excellent care, with one person saying "A&E were amazing", but also of problems with care, such as long and uncomfortable waits for treatment. 

It's not the building it's the people and they were good.
— Experience shared with Sallyann

About the project

Services that are developed in partnership with the people who use them work better for everyone. This project gathered feedback from people who might not normally share their experience or ideas.  

And is the first of a series of four projects that the Health Champions will be undertaking to help develop local services. 

It was jointly funded by South Integrated Care Partnership (SICP) and Addenbrooke’s Hospital. SICP is a partnership of organisations responsible for planning health and care services for people in the southern part of Cambridgeshire, including East Cambridgeshire.

Tell us about your experiences

NHS and social care staff are doing everything they can to keep us well during these challenging times, but there might be things that can be improved.

Your feedback can help services spot issues that are affecting care for you and your loved ones.

Share your views