People in County Durham, together with residents from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Darlington, Teesside, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby, said what they needed most to help them live healthy lives was “access to help and treatment I need when I want it”. “Professionals that listen to me when I speak about my concerns” often came a close second in people’s wishes for an effective future NHS.
A reoccurring theme in the feedback given to Healthwatch County Durham was the importance of “easy access to services which promote a healthy life”. People wanted more options to be available in their local and immediate areas that didn’t require excessive travel or unreasonable delays. Issues with patient transport and parking difficulties were also highlighted as impacting on easy access. Some residents also noted the importance of maintaining traditional ways of contacting services, e.g. by telephone, alongside newer technologies, to ensure access for all.
Many people wanted better access to services that promote a healthy lifestyle and people in County Durham noted the benefits social activities can have on reducing isolation, particularly in rural areas.
Thirteen local Healthwatch teams worked together to give people a voice across the region on how the NHS long-term plan should be implemented locally, collecting and analysing 2,480 surveys and meeting around 300 people in focus groups. Mental health, long-term conditions, cancer services and access to GPs were among respondent’s top priorities.
The views shared with Healthwatch County Durham and the region’s other Healthwatch teams have been summarised in two reports (see below) and will be used by the NHS to help develop local services for the future.