People living in Bath and North East Somerset (B&NES), Swindon and Wiltshire are being urged to do their bit to help the NHS cope with an increase in demand for services this winter.
As the season gets underway and Christmas approaches, health and care leaders from across the region are asking people to do as much as they can to stay healthy to avoid any unnecessary hospital stays at such a busy time.
We can all help ourselves by following some simple advice:
Dr Ian Orpen, a GP based in Bath and chair of B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership’s Clinical Board, said: “As winter gets well and truly under way, health and care services in B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire will begin to experience an increase in demand, so the more our residents can do to stay well this winter and help reduce that pressure, the better.
"Taking simple steps such as making sure you have a flu jab, seeing a pharmacist rather than ignoring minor ailments, calling 111 for urgent medical help and ensuring you have a supply of any over the counter medications before the Christmas holidays will really help.
"It’s also important that everyone uses the service that is right for their health and care needs. During the winter, hospitals and A&E departments can get very busy – so calling 111 or visiting your pharmacist or GP can make all the difference in making sure that the NHS works most effectively and hospitals are more easily able to treat those with serious conditions or injuries.”
The winter advice has been issued by the B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (BSW STP) and is part of a new NHS and Public Health England campaign called Help Us Help You.
The campaign aims to help make it easier for the public to understand the things they can do to manage their own health and get the best out of the NHS. By following the expert advice of NHS staff, the public can stay well; prevent an illness getting worse; take the best course of action; and get well again sooner.
The findings of a tour which collected more than 2,000 comments from the public have been published in a new Healthwatch Wiltshire report.
Last summer’s Campervan and Comments Tour saw Healthwatch Wiltshire staff and volunteers travel 400 miles around the county to gather the views and experiences of people of all ages on health and care services.
Taking to the roads in a classic 1969 VW campervan, the team parked up in town centres, supermarkets, schools, clubs and community groups, collecting 2,077 comments during a two-week tour.
Overall, most of the comments received - 58.5 per cent - were positive, with 35% negative and 6.6% neutral.
What people told us
The majority of comments the Healthwatch team received were about GP services (1,320), with the rest about hospitals (567), social care (74), dentists (41), mental health (38) and pharmacies (15). Twenty-four comments concerned other services, such as NHS 111 and physiotherapy.
“While there were some negative comments, it was great to hear that so many people have had a positive experience using health and care services in Wiltshire.
“Our goal now is that these views are used to make a difference to the way services are planned and managed.”
Healthwatch Wiltshire’s next steps will include working with Wiltshire Council’s new adult social care advice and contact team to ensure people’s views are considered.
Stacey added: “Since the tour, we have been gathering more detailed feedback on mental health services, which has formed a key part of our work this year. A report showing what we heard will be out on this very soon.”
The Campervan and Comments Tour report is available here.
The tour was conducted under Healthwatch Wiltshire’s previous provider, Evolving Communities.
Increased demands on healthcare services and the national shortage of GPs are having an impact on primary care across the UK and in Wiltshire. The Bradford on Avon and Melksham Health Partnership (BoAMHP) have been unable to recruit enough clinicians following the retirement of three full-time GP partners and have sought approval to close St Damian's Surgery in Melksham.
Dr Richard Sandford-Hill, NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group Chair said: “We understand the challenges facing primary care, particularly around recruitment of clinical staff. BoAMHP has sought approval to close its branch surgery in Melksham because, despite their best efforts, the partners feel unable to maintain a full range of patient services at all of their sites.”
Dr Janice Patrick, Senior Partner at Bradford on Avon and Melksham Health Partnership said: “This has been a very difficult decision for us to take. Over the past year we have put a lot of measures in place to try and maintain the surgery at St Damian's, but we find ourselves in a position where we cannot continue to provide a service in Melksham with the resources we have available to us.
“BoAMHP is keen to continue to provide services to as many of the St Damian‟s registered patients as wish to stay with their current GP, should our proposal to close the surgery at St Damian‟s be approved. We are writing to all St Damian‟s patients to explain to them what the proposed closure would mean for them.”
As part of the closure, BoAMHP are seeking approval to change the practice boundary and St Damian's patients living outside of the new practice boundary could choose to be registered as an 'out of area' patient, which means they could continue to use the full range of services at Bradford on Avon Health Centre from one of the three remaining sites.
St Damian's patients who want to continue to see a GP in Melksham would need to register with Giffords Surgery or Spa Medical Practice. BoAMHP are committed to supporting patients who choose to register with an alternative GP practice.
As part of the proposal to close, surgery hours at St Damian's would reduce on 7 January 2019 to 8am–1pm Monday to Friday until 31 March 2019 when the surgery would close its doors.
Patients who have questions or would like further information about the proposed closure can attend drop-in clinics from 9am-12noon and from 2pm-4pm on Monday 19 November and Wednesday 21 November.
Public consultations are also being held at 2pm on Wednesday 5 December in the Assembly Hall, Melksham and at 7pm on Monday 12 December at the Town Hall, Melksham.
Stacey Plumb, Healthwatch Wiltshire Manager, said: "If you're not able to get to a drop-in clinic or attend a public consultation and would like to share your experiences, please contact us."
A public consultation on proposals to transform maternity services across Bath and North East Somerset (BANES), Swindon and Wiltshire has been opened by Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group this week.
The proposal has been developed after listening to the views of women, families and staff over the last two years by all the NHS organisations that plan and buy health services as well as those that provide or manage maternity services across Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire. Together these organisations make up the Local Maternity System.
Lucy Baker, Acting Director for Maternity Services at Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group and Lead Director for the project, said: “Our proposal is the result of feedback gained from listening to over 2,000 women and families, staff, midwives, obstetricians and others with an interest in maternity services to look at ways we can improve the services we provide to mothers and families across the region. To do that, we need to make some changes to how we currently do things."
She added: “Our proposal would allow us to provide more choice for more women across our area about where and how they are supported before, during and after the birth of their baby, and allows us to make more efficient use of our resources and workforce so we can further improve our antenatal and post-natal and birthing services. We also want to ensure we are delivering the services that can meet the changing needs of our local women and families both now and in the future.
“Despite the financial pressures facing the NHS locally and nationally, we are not planning to reduce how much we spend on maternity services, nor are we proposing to reduce the amount of staff we have or to close any buildings.”
The proposal addresses the issues posed by changes to the population. The average age of a woman giving birth in the UK is now 35. More and more women are experiencing high risk pregnancies (for example, because of high blood pressure, obesity or diabetes) which means they need to be supported in a hospital setting with an expert medical team available. The combination of these factors means there is vastly increased pressure on services at the Obstetric Units at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, Great Western Hospital in Swindon and Salisbury District Hospital.
In addition, many women with a low risk pregnancy are choosing to have their babies in an Obstetric Unit because they are worried about having to move by ambulance to another site during or after their labour if they need the help of a doctor. Women need a safe, convenient alternative so staff at the three obstetric units at Bath, Salisbury and Swindon hospitals can focus on mothers who really need their care.
Sarah Merritt, Head of Nursing and Midwifery at Royal United Hospital, Bath, said:
“Some of the changes we are proposing are because, particularly at the RUH, certain services are underused and we are often staffing empty buildings and beds. 85% of women give birth in one of the three Obstetric Units with fewer than 6% giving birth across our four Freestanding Midwifery Units in Chippenham, Trowbridge, Paulton and Frome.
“We believe we have the right number and mix of staff but they’re not based in the right locations to ensure efficient use of our resources and provide women with the services they need.
“In our Freestanding Midwifery Units - particularly at night - staff are covering areas even when there are no or very few births. On average only one baby is delivered every two or three days in each of these units but they need to be staffed to support births 24 hours a day seven days a week.”
The plans have been developed to ensure services are efficient and sustainable to support future population growth, changes in housing policy, and the repatriation of military personnel to South Wiltshire from April 2019.
To find out more, and to have your say on the plans, visit: www.wiltshireccg.nhs.uk/have-you-say/consultations-2/transforming-maternity-services-together
It's Self Care Week and Wiltshire Council and NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group are encouraging people to be well-prepared ahead of winter by taking simple steps to look after themselves and helping their families, friends and neighbours to do the same.
This year, the theme for Self Care Week is ‘Choose Self Care for Life’ and preparing now for the winter ahead will help people, particularly those who are elderly or vulnerable, to stay as well as possible.
This means trying to stay active even when the weather is colder, and eating a balanced diet. Wiltshire Council’s health trainers can help people every step of the way – the service is for people aged 18 + and is free. They can also help you find other services and activities to keep you healthy and well over winter.
For more information visit www.wiltshire.gov.uk/public-health-trainers or call 0300 003 4566.
There are also benefits and grants available to help with energy efficiency, such as cavity wall insulation to help keep homes warm. Call Warm & Safe Wiltshire on 0800 038 5722 or visit www.warmandsafewiltshire.org.uk for more information.
Jerry Wickham, Wiltshire Council cabinet member for public health, said: “It’s also sensible to check on vulnerable neighbours and relatives and ensure they have everything they need to stay safe and warm. Sometimes, simply offering to do the shopping for someone can make a big difference.
“There is a lot of support available to help people to stay safe, healthy, warm and out of hospital this winter and beyond.”
NHS Wiltshire CCG has created an easy-to-use eight-step guide, to help people know what simple steps they can take to help keep themselves well over the winter months.
S – see your pharmacist at first sign of illness
E – eat plenty of fruit and vegetables
L – learn more about around the clock healthcare services in Wiltshire
F – find out if you’re eligible for a free flu vaccine
C – check in on your neighbours
A – arrange to pick up your prescription
R – restock your medicine cabinet
E – ensure you stay warm
Dr Andrew Girdher, GP at Box Surgery, explains: “We’re encouraging people to be proactive with their own self-care, to help them stay as healthy as possible and to know where to go if they do need health care advice.
“Healthcare services are put under enormous pressure over the winter months and by doing what you can to look after yourself where you can, helps to free up valuable practitioner time to see those people who really need to be seen.”
Healthwatch Wiltshire is looking for your ideas on how it can improve its work in 2019.
The county's independent consumer champion for health and care services has launched a short survey for local residents which will help focus its work in the new year.
Healthwatch Manager, Stacey Plumb said: "This survey will help give us a flavour of what we do well and what we can improve on, as well as giving us ideas of where we can go to listen to more people about their experiences.
"As always, we would love to hear your views of health and care services in Wiltshire, what's good and what could be better."
The survey, which takes just a few minutes to complete, is available here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/wiltsresidentssurvey
Healthwatch Wiltshire is looking for people with a passion for health and care services to join its Local Leadership Board.
The Local Leadership Board will be the driving force behind Healthwatch Wiltshire's commitment to ensure the voices of children, young people and adults are heard by those who run, plan and regulate health and social care services in the county.
The Board will be made up of six voluntary members, including a Chair and Deputy Chair, and applications are open to anyone who wants to see services meet the needs of those who use them.
Stacey Plumb, Healthwatch Wiltshire Interim Manager, said: "We're looking for people who are willing to give their time and energy to Healthwatch and help us to prioritise the issues that are most important to the people of Wiltshire.
"You might be a regular service user, have a background in the NHS or social care services, or just have a keen interest in seeing services improved."
As a Board member, you'll be representing Healthwatch Wiltshire at key meetings so you'll need to be able to make sense of complex information and be a good strategic thinker.
You'll also need to be a strong team player, being both a good listener and be able to speak up on issues that you feel are important.
To apply, please send a CV and covering letter outlining why you are suitable for the role, to firstname.lastname@example.org by 12 noon on Friday 9 November.
More information about the role is available here.
If you have any questions about the role, contact Emma Leatherbarrow, Director of Partnerships at Help and Care - Healthwatch's Wiltshire's provider - at email@example.com
Healthwatch Wiltshire has earned national recognition for a project which gave hundreds of young people a chance to speak up about their mental health.
We picked up an award for Volunteering at the Healthwatch England conference in Stratford upon Avon on Wednesday 3 October, an event which brings together Healthwatch teams from across the UK.
In partnership with Youth Action Wiltshire, Community Organisers from Community First and local schools, Healthwatch mentored a group of students, supporting them to learn new skills and build confidence. Some of the students were trained to become Young Listeners, visiting schools and speaking to other students to understand their views on mental health.
Stacey Plumb, Interim Manager for Healthwatch Wiltshire, said: "We're over the moon to win this award. We really enjoyed working with the students and would like to thank Youth Action Wiltshire, Community First and all the schools involved for helping us bring this project to life.
“The Young Listeners showed great dedication throughout this project and really listened to what other young people told them. There were also great benefits for the Young Listeners themselves, they learnt a lot and have grown and developed in confidence.
"The government has committed to spending £1.4 billion in children and young people's mental health services over the next five years and, as more and more children are seeking support for their mental health, we wanted to know what young people want from these services."
Students taking part in the project told Young Listeners they wanted:
Another said: "I wanted to become a Young Listener so I could help young people if they have problems because I might have had some experiences that are close to theirs."
Cleo Evans, from Youth Action Wiltshire, said: “We are delighted and proud to learn that the YouthWatch Project for Healthwatch Wiltshire has been recognised nationally by Healthwatch England.
"Healthwatch Wiltshire commissioned Community First and Youth Action Wiltshire to deliver a local programme that enabled us to develop and deliver a bespoke youth volunteering project that placed young people at its heart. For young people in Wiltshire, they have been given the opportunity to help shape the future by allowing young people to take ownership of how they should be supported in schools around their mental health and wellbeing.
"We have loved working with the young people who are the true heroes of this project.”
The project was undertaken by Healthwatch Wiltshire under our previous provider, Evolving Communities.
Celebrated every year, the Healthwatch England awards highlight how local Healthwatch across the country have helped make people’s views of health and social care services heard.
Liz Sayce, award judge and Healthwatch England Committee Member, said: “Healthwatch Wiltshire have this year demonstrated the real power of peer support. They helped young people who had experienced mental health challenges to grow in confidence through volunteering, learn how to support themselves, and how to help others too.”
Read more about the Young Listeners project on our Reports page.
We would like to hear your views on mental health services in Wiltshire. Tell us about your experiences in our survey.
Healthwatch Wiltshire are asking local people what areas within mental health they should be focusing on for the next year.
Earlier this year Healthwatch Wiltshire staff and volunteers asked local people what they thought their priorities should be for the year ahead. Over 150 people voted for the top priorities and mental health was chosen by many people as a key area that should be focused on.
Healthwatch Wiltshire would now like to know what you think are the key issues within mental health so that they can focus their work.
Fill in their short survey here: