On 26 April we had the pleasure of attending the A’aina Community Hub in Walsall, the hub is based in an old church building – the group are planning on demolishing the original structure and have had permission to construct a new purpose building.
The Community Hub is open seven days a week and provides a service to women, and young people in the local community. It also hosts a range of activities such as ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes, IT, yoga, fitness, community garden, children’s homework club.
Our involvement colleague Natalie spoke with A’aisha Khan who runs the group. A’aisha told us that a nurse visits once a week and attendees can book in to discuss different types of health issues such as diabetes, asthma, medication, and weight management etc. A’aisha is exploring other funding options with Walsall Together to continue future projects in preventing ill health.
We will ensure that we schedule additional visits so we can effectively monitor the positive impact that this community group is having on our local communities.
On 22 April we returned to Willenhall Chart for one of their coffee mornings - Willenhall Chart Hub is a community centre with various rooms that runs a variety of activities for the local community.
Our involvement colleague Natalie spoke with some local people who attended the group about loneliness/social isolation and primary care. Social isolation and loneliness affect lots of people in different ways. Around 20 people attend the coffee mornings, and everyone takes turns bringing in teacakes, crumpets, and bread as snacks for the people in the room. One lady shared that a buddying system would be beneficial to help people with anxiety attend groups like these to talk to people and get out of the house. The lead volunteer at the coffee mornings also enjoys the company of others, she gave up working to look after her granddaughter and plays an active role amongst the group to keep herself busy during the day.
When discussing access to primary care we received varied responses, two group members had learning difficulties and disclosed that despite owning a mobile, they have trouble using the internet. Natalie advised that they could call their GP or alternatively, if the practice is local, they could go into their GP surgery to speak to the receptionist directly. Another attendee spoke about their GP practice and said they had no issues – there may be up to 10 people in the queue on any given day, but they have always had a call back from their GP.
Overall, our visit was very insightful as we were able to see how the community centre is supporting people and how we can get involved in hearing the voices of local people that may be experiencing health inequalities. We will continue to share healthcare information with Willenhall Chart Hub to enable them to support those who attend their groups.
We visited the University of Wolverhampton as part of their Health Campaign week. We spoke to over 40 students about careers and volunteering, mental health and stress, cost of living and lack of representation. Several students recalled how they find it very difficult to get work experience, placements, or volunteering in the NHS, which makes it harder to get into healthcare roles and also casts doubt over their career choices.
Some of the students we spoke to are currently studying nursing, however several disclosed that they had no intention of becoming a nurse at the end of their degree, due to the high pressures and low pay that is routinely discussed in the press.
We heard that many students are experiencing mental health issues, more so now than ever due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The wellbeing champions regularly host mental health workshops and some common themes that arise include isolation, difficulties with the ability to socialise, cost of living and exam stress.
There are over 50 Wellbeing Champions who are student volunteers passionate about health and wellbeing. They deliver health and wellbeing activities and services to improve health outcomes, reduce inequalities and promote self-care. These include belonging and community groups, mental health workshops, encouraging people to get outdoors and exercise, and give tips to help you fell good. They also deliver an array of national public health campaigns on campus and in the communities of Wolverhampton.
Several people we spoke to have registered for Get Involved and are interested in attending the People Panels to represent the student voice.
We met with LGBT+ Wolverhampton a community support organisation, who offer a wide range of social groups in Wolverhampton, along with counselling services, which they offer to anyone in the Black Country.
We heard that drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues and unemployment are all higher in the LGBT+ community. We also heard how one of their groups is calle an ‘Immigrant Group’, a term they feel strongly about due to the extra stigma immigrants face when they identify as LGBT+, therefore there is a strong feeling that they should not have to ‘soften their own label’.
In the future, we will be visiting the Oasis group to continue the conversation and gain a better understanding.
We attended one of the Alzheimer’s Society weekly dementia cafes at Bantock House in Wolverhampton. These sessions are provided for local people to support those living with dementia and their carers.
We heard about peoples’ experiences of living with dementia and accessing healthcare services. Several attendees said that, since COVID, it is more difficult to see their GP, and when they request face-to-face appointments, they experience longer wait times. In addition to this, a few people spoke of how they felt that receptionists, GPs, and pharmacists do not understand the complexities of living with dementia, and how difficult it can make daily tasks for carers, such as having to take extra journeys to collect or order prescriptions.
There was much praise for the dementia assessments and medication reviews at Memory Clinic Brooklands Health Centre. The service received there was described as excellent by many people. We also heard how since the diagnosis, many families have been inundated with support and Alzheimer’s UK have been brilliant at signposting.
These conversations have been shared with the commissioners for consideration and the feedback has been passed onto our Time2Talk team.
We attended Lauren’s Gate in Wolverhampton, P3’s supported housing for people experiencing homelessness. We met with people living there and ran a workshop, to help understand the barriers they face around health and care and how to improve access to services.
We listened to how access is a barrier, about the long-term health effects of sleeping rough and heard about mental health services. One person spoke openly about their experiences of sleeping rough for four months and how this has caused respiratory problems. However, they have not yet been to see a doctor about this, as they felt it would be easier to wait and attend A&E once the issue has escalated and become more serious. To help prevent this, it was asked whether it would be possible to provide health checks for those who are homeless.
We heard of difficulties accessing a psychiatrist, how someone missed an appointment due to work, which then led to a sixth-month medication delay, as well as a deterioration in their mental health and becoming unable to work. This person suggested regular visits from a mental health nurse to Lauren’s Gate would be beneficial to P3, due to the impact these experiences have had on their mental health.
These experiences and the suggestions made have been shared with commissioners and will form part of the Good Practice Guides for reasonable adjustments to accessing primary care.
In 2022, we coproduced and published a new approach to involving people and communities built on the foundations of 6 key themes. We shared our progress so far in the latest instalment of 'Feet on the Street' which was presented to the ICB Board at their meeting on Thursday 30 March 2023. Watch the 'Feet on the Street' video on YouTube or see below, and you can download a transcript of the video. You can read the Board papers from the March meeting here.
The video provided details of how the ICB was working in partnership with others to gain and share insight into lived experiences from those using services. The Board welcomed the views expressed in the video from local voluntary sector leaders, local people, other local partners and NHS England’s lead for patient involvement and they recognised the progress to date to embed our new approach.
The challenge for the ICB to continually demonstrate that involvement matters and that insights are heard and acted upon was recognised and the Board also commented on the need for collaborative approaches to involvement to avoid ‘consultation fatigue’. As this work continues to gain momentum the ICB will reach further into communities through our place-based partnership arrangements and there will continue to be a focus on developing shared insights and effective partnership arrangements.
Thank you to all those involved in the production of this video.
We visited the homelessness prevention team P3 at one of their supported housing lodgings to listen to what they have to say about health and care. We heard how people who are homeless have multiple issues and find navigating health services particularly difficult. We spoke to people staying there who said they often give up on doctors after not getting through on the phone and leave their health issues to deteriorate, opting for emergency services if they become severe. We are going to explore these access support needs further and plan to hold a workshop with P3 and feed this into the Good Practice Guides, making primary care more accessible for people experiencing homelessness.
We had an introductory meeting with the Haven who support women and children at risk of domestic violence and homelessness. They have concerns around crisis prevention and managing high risk situations such as an overdose, we spoke about current processes and how this could be improved. The Haven are a charity recognised and part funded by the King’s Fund, they offer counselling and specialist services to women and children. They see any referrals within three weeks, to try and support women when they need it, but GPs do not currently refer into them and they are not commissioned to deliver this service. They would like our support to promote their service to GPs, to make them more aware of what they offer and refer into them when appropriate.
We have since had some discussions and The Haven will be invited to discuss their offer at a Primary Care Collaborative and Clinical Director Leads meeting. We are also arranging a working group with some of the women accessing the Haven, to understand their experiences accessing primary care.
On 22 March, we visited Willenhall Chart as a potential venue for the Walsall People Panel. Our involvement colleague Natalie spoke with Sylvia Deeley, a staff member at Willenhall Chart, who explained more about the community centre and the range of activities and services they provide.
The Centre have an over 50’s club offering a two-course meal and a game of bingo on Fridays at 12.00, with over 60 people in regular attendance. There is also a coffee morning on a Tuesday, as well as a learning disability group that has six attendees.
Sylvia spoke more about the learning disability group and how one member sometimes struggles to attend due to transport. She explained that some people with learning disabilities have support and carers, and others do not. Ring and Ride services operate in some areas but not all, so Sylvia explained that if the service were available in all areas, that this would help prevent social isolation.
Overall, we were very impressed by the Centre. Sylvia has been invited to attend our next Walsall People Panel. Our involvement colleague Natalie has also assured us that she will revisit Willenhall Chart and meet some of the community groups to gather feedback and shared experiences about healthcare services.
On 22 March we attended a session of the Me&U youth group at Gornal Youth Club. Me&U youth group support 11-21-year olds that have been diagnosed with autism, self-diagnosed with autism or are awaiting a diagnosis.
Our involvement colleague Erica Spoke to a 22-year-old who now volunteers for the group - he provided positive accounts about the youth group as it has helped with his social skills, and he feels that he is treated with respect. The volunteer went on to explain how he has several health conditions, including arthritis, asthma, autism, depression, anxiety and eczema, the diagnosis of arthritis particularly took a toll on his mental health. Minimal support was provided for him whilst he was at school and he missed the normality of social interaction amongst his peers. However, he confirmed that there is good collaboration and trust amongst volunteers and those who attend the centre and feels as though this has helped him drastically.
Erica Also spoke to an 18-year-old who self-diagnosed themselves with autism at the age of 16 - it took an additional 10 months for an official diagnosis. It was a relief when he received the diagnosis as he could get the support he needed and the benefits he was entitled to, although he was not informed that he was entitled to benefits and found out about it through self-research.
It was very informative to hear the positive feedback about the youth group, but disappointing to hear about the negative experiences and limited support for young people with autism. To help provide better care and support to our vulnerable communities, our involvement colleagues have signposted the youth group to the following services and resources: Black Country Healthcare mindfulness videos, Silvercloud and Wellmind app, Black Country Connected and our ICB Time2Talk team.
We attended the weekly mother and toddler group ran by volunteers at the library to listen to their experiences of maternity care in Walsall. We discussed the plans to move the Midwife Led Unit into Walsall Manor from a stand-alone site and that we wanted to know the thoughts of people who have used these services recently.
The mothers we spoke to described their experiences in relation to the pandemic and how this affected them. The over-arching theme was the importance of having family by their side when they needed it most and how difficult the visiting restrictions made some of the experiences, depending on when they had their babies. Some said how not having partners present for scans and to support after having a baby impacted their mental health and extended their recovery period.
Mothers all thought moving the Midwife Led Unit to the hospital was a good idea, with the added reassurance that consultants are nearby.
On 17 March, we met with the baby and toddler group who meet every Friday at St Martin's Church in Walsall.
We spoke to around 20 people during the visit and discussed the future of Walsall's Midwifery-Led Unit (MLU) and it’s move to Manor Hospital. Feedback provided was generally positive and many people felt that it was a good idea to have maternity facilities under one roof.
Several mothers were worried about having their delivery booked on the old MLU site. They explained that if there were complications during labour, the person would be moved to the hospital for intervention. This can be very stressful as they will need to be sent by ambulance to the MLU as it is off site, which many agreed that this is the last thing they want to do when they are in labour.
Following the pandemic, a common theme that was raised was the importance of having family by your side when you need it most as this can have a huge impact on mental health and the recovery period. A lot of mothers urged that there should be more private rooms available and space for partners to stay if needed.
Following on from the feedback provided, we asked if anyone wanted to take part in a survey as part of the Walsall Maternity Services Listening Exercise. Six surveys were completed in total and feedback and experiences shared will be used to help shape the future of Walsall's Midwifery-Led Unit (MLU).
We met with Jessie from Bread for Life in Walsall, a charity …. We heard how language poses a barrier for people when is comes to accessing health and care, which increases health inequalities. It is felt that there is a need for improved interpretation services to address this need and help people who do not speak English to communicate with health care professionals. We recorded the key messages for our Board, as this is a recurring theme.
On 15 March we had the pleasure of visiting Camphill Village Trust. As a national charity and not-for-profit organisation, Camphill Village Trust brings over 65 years of experience, knowledge and passion to supporting people with learning disabilities, autism, mental health challenges and complex needs. There are nine Camphill Village Trust communities across England, each in its own unique setting. From rural Botton Village and Oaklands Park to the bustling busyness of Stourbridge or Delrow. The centres all exist to provide a life of opportunity to people with learning disabilities.
As well as communities, they also run a Shared Lives scheme in the West Midlands. Throughout England there are about 12,000 people being supported through Shared Lives and across Dudley and the wider Black Country, they currently supervise 48 households who provide arrangements to people with a variety of additional and complex needs. They are supported-living providers and offer a wide variety of day opportunities.
It was very insightful to have the opportunity to tour the different supported accommodation facilities and activities being offered in the Dudley area. With the help of community networks, being in supported accommodation can give people the independence to live their life to the best of their ability. Dean, a member of staff at the Trust, mentioned how Camphill Village support with furnishing (dependent on the person's income and savings) as it can be expensive for members find their own funds. Our involvement colleague Erica signposted him to Provision House who offer furnishings for free - the buyer just pays £45 for delivery costs.
In addition to furnishings, one of the sites also has a few acres of land where they grow their own produce. They also use this space and the barn to put on a number of activities such as cooking, arts and crafts, feeding animals etc. This is open to people in supported accommodation or those who have received direct payment from the local authority who may struggle with learning disabilities and/or mental health needs.
It was very inspiring to see the fantastic facilities and to hear some of the positive outcomes for people that have been supported by Camphill Village. As the Trust support people with their mental health, our involvement colleagues will put them in touch with Black Country Healthcare who are currently looking into partnership working as part of the community mental health transformation.
We attended the Armed Forces Covenant event held by Wolverhampton Council, celebrating the signing and commitment from the council to the Armed Forces Covenant Act (2021). With over 3000 veterans in Wolverhampton, the work of the Armed Forces Covenant Act is crucial in helping people to live well after the forces.
They had key partners sign and make the public commitment, which involves a statutory duty of providers and commissioners of health, housing and education in becoming forces friendly businesses. Shajeda Ahmed from the Integrated Care Board attended and made the public commitment to the Covenant Act on behalf of the ICB.
The Grand Theatre in Wolverhampton host a memory café for people living with or caring for someone with dementia. We went and spoke with over 30 attendees to understand their experiences of health services. We heard that dementia assessments are too short and not holistic enough, that there is not enough support for carers and that people with dementia often treat the assessment with a GP as a test and concentrate hard to ‘pass’, acting very differently to how they present shortly after. We heard that changing carers can be terrifying for someone with dementia, therefore have passed on the message that more consistency of carers would help to overcome this.
While we were there, we received some compliments which we have passed on to the Time2Talk team:
"I was at a dinner with a dementia group 2 weeks ago and someone died right at the table. We called an ambulance and within 2 minutes they were there, and we saw them bring him back to life, he's survived and in hospital getting better, cannot praise the NHS enough."
"At Duncan Street they are brilliant, I can always get an appointment and they understand dementia – even the reception staff are patient and helpful."
We want to better understand the situation and have plans to visit more dementia groups to continue the conversation.
Action for Independence care for people with learning disabilities (70%) and dementia (30%). We spoke with a carer and a group of people who use the services they provide. We heard that people found there is not enough support for carers who look after people with dementia, that they call the police for support due to having no where else to go.
If you are a carer and require support caring for someone with dementia, you can call the Dementia UK helpline on 0800 888 66 78 or visit their website for more information: How we can support you - Dementia UK
Carers UK provide an online forum, providing support for carers which is free to join: Our Forum | Carers UK
We have joined up with Better Health: Rewards, a scheme Wolverhampton Council are leading on, to have conversations with a wide demographic across the city about their health throughout March and have been promoting the pilot. Registrations are now officially closed, with more that 28,000 Wulfrunians having signed up to earn rewards for making healthier choices.