Around 3,000 people shared their opinions and experiences, and information was collected via surveys, telephone, and through online sessions. Offices also engaged with specific areas of the community such as Deaf residents and ethnic minority groups. Healthwatch felt it was important to consider Greater Manchester as a whole and put forward recommendations that could benefit people across the area.
Key themes and recommendations:
- Digital exclusion
There are many in society who struggle to use the technology required to navigate health and care services. It is estimated that 13% of the population in England and Wales fall into a category that makes them more likely to be digitally excluded such as having a visual impairment, disability, or not speaking English. Services often use jargon or acronyms that are hard to understand.
However, patients have welcomed and praised the efforts made to address their digital needs.
- Healthwatch recommends using simple language and consistent messaging in a range of formats for a diverse population. Where services are using a digital model, steps should be taken to support and encourage people to be able to use these, especially if they are currently digitally excluded. It should also be recognised that not everyone will want or be able to access digital services, and these people must be able to access an equivalent level of care and support.
Access to a dentist has been highlighted as a major problem across Greater Manchester.
- Patients need to be reassured that they do not need to become private patients if they are already an NHS patient. A public health campaign on the necessity of good oral health for children and adults would be beneficial.
- Mental health
There has been a great deal of coverage about the impact of lockdown on mental health. A revised Greater Manchester mental health strategy is on its way, but all boroughs need to review their current strategies and priorities.
- Healthwatch asks that authorities to look at the ability to meet the demand for services, from health prevention to the treatment of the seriously mentally ill across all age ranges.
- Waiting lists and routine care
The pandemic has resulted in huge waiting lists for people with physical health care needs and it will take a long time to recover. However, many patients have steered clear of their GP and there may be a surge in appointment requests post-lockdown.
- Healthwatch advises authorities to keep patients informed of their place on waiting lists to allow them to develop coping strategies. People also wish to know how treatment is prioritised, and Healthwatch highlights the vaccination programme as a good example. Transparency is key.
Healthwatch recognises the efforts of frontline workers and Greater Manchester residents have told us about the support they have received from the NHS, from volunteers, and from community groups during lockdown. We have outlined these themes and recommendations with the goal of supporting service providers in improving both outcomes and access to health and care services now and in the future.
We encourage Greater Manchester residents to contact their own local Healthwatch and continue sharing their experiences and views on health and social care issues, so that we can direct our work to the issues that matter.