June 2023

We spoke with staff and visitors at the Mary Stevens Hospice in Dudley, who spoke about end-of-life care. People felt lucky that their loved ones were able to access the services of the hospice and spoke very highly of the staff and support they receive. We heard people speaking openly about their personal choices for end-of-life and although many would like to be at home, those who didn’t spoke of having the ‘best care’ at the Mary Stevens Hospice if it was an option available to them.

We met with the British Red Cross to understand the work they are doing in Wolverhampton to connect communities as part of their quest to increase health equity. We heard about the increasing sense of isolation and loneliness people are experiencing, and the impact this has on their health. We helped to connect British Red Cross to local organisations such as OneWolverhampton, in joining up their work. The British Red Cross are keen to work together with us and they will be recruiting volunteers to represent local communities as trusted voices, working to reduce health inequalities across Wolverhampton.

On 21 June our involvement colleague Natalie attended the Autism West Midlands group at Walsall Disability Hub to discuss primary care and pharmacy services.

Several attendees noted that communication at their local practices is poor – one patient struggles to obtain their repeat prescriptions and regularly must attend their practice to address the issue as it is difficult to get through via the telephone. They said that their ADSD can make these tasks difficult as practice staff lack knowledge and understanding of their condition which makes interactions strenuous.

Similarly, at pharmacies, ADSD patients are struggling to get repeat prescriptions as they have to use the NHS App – something they are not familiar with. When trying to communicate this struggle, one patient said that the pharmacist did not help them further, which left them feeling misunderstood. Another patient said that someone else now has to order their medicines for them which has taken away their dignity and independence.

Our involvement team has passed all comments onto our Time2Talk team, Senior Management Team, and Primary Care Commissioner to ensure that issues are addressed and that we can better understand the importance of these issues for local people. Our Time2Talk team will also contact attendees of the session and provide them with the opportunity to discuss their concerns in greater detail.

Our involvement team contacted the lead within the digital inequalities team for further information on e-learning – our digital inequalities team provides learning for people who have limited/no access to a digital device and enables them to better access information such as health, care, and wellbeing sites.

Feedback has also been shared with partners, in particular the Autistic Board at the Black Country Healthcare NHS Trust for information, and views about the pharmacies being aware of the ‘Sunflower scheme’ has been raised with the Local Pharmacy Council to take forward.

Other partners have also had feedback about their healthcare professionals knowing who has autism and what different communication needs may be required. GPs can create alerts on their system and an agreement is progress to develop something similar when a patient is referred to Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust.

We ran a workshop in collaboration with Changing Lives, to speak with the ladies they work with and gain a better understanding of their experiences of health and care. Changing Lives is a charity supporting vulnerable people and their families, working with a wide range of people including women involved in the criminal justice system and those involved in sex work. We heard, "Our women struggle to make a set appointment, they won't go back for a second or third appointment, with the difficulties they face, they need extra time with a GP to go through all their issues at once, otherwise they are left untreated and get worse."‚Äč It was discussed how longer or double appointments for people with additional barriers would increase health equity.

We also heard an example of good practice which makes accessing primary care easier, which people would like to see elsewhere, "at Bentley Practice, you can fill in a form for an appointment, with a few details such as reason and preferred times, professionals can book it and text back with an appointment, this should be available everywhere." Another suggestion was using system flags in GP practices, to easily identify someone who has additional needs which require more time or care, for example, anxiety. We are planning another visit to Changing Lives soon. All this insight will be discussed with colleagues across the ICB to make them aware of what we are hearing in the community and what people would like to see.

On 14 June we joined a Ramblers wellbeing walk at Silver Jubilee Park.

The wellbeing walks, ranging from 10 to 90 minutes in length are taken place over easy ground and at steady pace to suit everyone. Local Dudley residents are encouraged to attend to help get them more active - taking place at least once a week, starting at the same time and place every week. These groups are a great way of connecting with people and enjoying the benefits of being outdoors.

Our involvement colleague, Erica, spoke to several attendees about their experience accessing healthcare services in the Black Country. A retired gentleman mentioned that cares for his housebound wife and wanted to know what support is available for carers, particularly regarding someone visiting his wife in their home whilst he goes on a day trip for carers next month. We signposted him to we love carers and list of support listed on the Dudley Council website Do you look after someone? | Dudley Council.

Overall, our visit was a very positive experience as these groups showcased an excellent opportunity for local people to connect with each other and enjoy the benefits of being outdoors. We will continue to share appropriate services with Ramblers to ensure they get the help and support they need.

On 12 June we visited Autism West Midlands for one of their groups in Sandwell. Autism West Midlands aims to improve the quality of life for people with autism spectrum disorders (ADSD) and their families by raising awareness of the condition and making provision for the individual needs of people with ADSD. The organisation spans the Black Country area and they run courses, support groups, and advocates for people with autism.

Our involvement colleague, Natalie, spoke with attendees about healthcare services and addressed topics such as communication amongst primary care and hospital staff in relation to people with autism, hospital passports, and prevention.

Several people said that practice staff do not appropriately adjust the way they communicate with people with ADSD – a possible solution could be adopting a system that notifies staff that the patient has autism to help better assist patients.

There was consensus that healthcare professionals should be provided with more in-depth training and knowledge regarding ADSD. Some attendees had found themselves in difficult situations due to lack of understanding i.e. pharmacy staff were not able to appropriately assist one patient which resulted in the staff raising their voice, and another spoke of how they were being placed in a new department at their place of work (Manor Hospital) which made then uncomfortable due to change in environment.

Another attendee mentioned hospital passports and emphasised the importance of them. The passports detail everything about the patient including disorders or conditions they may have such as ADSD. Despite this, due to other pressures, we learned that some hospitals do not have the time to read the passports, even though they could be significantly helpful to healthcare professionals, as they are provided with all relevant information needed to assess the patient.

Overall, the visit was very insightful, and we understand that Autism West Midlands is a vital service for people with ADSD that helps them with daily life.

Feedback has also been shared with partners, in particular the Autistic Board at the Black Country Healthcare NHS Trust for information, and views about the pharmacies being aware of the ‘Sunflower scheme’ has been raised with the Local Pharmacy Council to take forward.

Concerns about passports have been passed on to Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospital PALS to ensure they are being appropriately utilised for patients.

Other partners have also had feedback about their healthcare professionals knowing who has autism and what different communication needs may be required. GPs can create alerts on their system and Natalie will feed back information to the group at the next visit.

On 7 June we attended a carers information marketplace at Mary Stevens Centre.

The event was hosted by WeLoveCarers in association with Dudley Carers Alliance, to raise awareness during Carers Week of unpaid carers. WeLoveCarers is an independent charity run by carers for carers. Their aims are to provide information, guidance, and support for all the carers of both adults and children with a vast array of disabilities.

During the visit, our involvement colleagues came across several stallholders who were raising awareness of the support available to carers, including preventative and wellbeing services. There were also a range of activities on offer for attendees throughout the day, including mindfulness walks and seated meditation.

Our involvement specialist, Erica, spoke to some people in attendance about their experience accessing healthcare services in the Black Country. There were a number of for concerns raised about primary and secondary care services, with regards to GP access and waiting lists. As a result, we have signposted to our Time2Talk team so that the issues can be addressed and to ensure the appropriate help and support is provided.

Many people also expressed an interest in having their say and attending our future people panels – they were added to our database for future collaboration.  

May 2023

In May, we started our ICB Board Meeting with this ‘Feet on the Street’ video. These regular videos are a result of the Involvement team’s community conversations, which bring the views of the communities which we serve into the Board meeting to both provide context and set the tone for the meeting.

The video focussed on the views of local people on their recent experiences of using pharmacy, optometry, and dental care services, which we took responsibility for on 1 April 2023. We also heard from some contractors representing the 288 pharmacies, 121 optometrists, and 159 general dental practices.

It is clear that access, communication, and coordination of care are key for people when using these services and that they played a vital role in people’s health. The contractors referenced challenges in the workforce, access to information, and infrastructure but also cited clear opportunities for their services to play an even bigger role in improving the health of local people. One area of opportunity was the chance to utilise contacts with patients using these services to offer universal health checks and screening.

At present, having recently taken on this new responsibility from NHS England, the Board felt it right that we focus on the safe landing of services and building relationships with the contractors. Moving forwards, there will undoubtedly be more opportunities to improve population health as we create stronger links in primary care and between these services and the community whom they serve.  

We couldn’t have this level of debate and discussion if it wasn’t for local people and groups sharing their stories and experiences with us. A big thank you to all that did.

On 15 May we attended the Growing Up in Dudley Event at the Village Hotel in Dudley, organised by Dudley Council and Dudley CVS.

Dudley Council and Dudley CVS’ vision is for Dudley to be a wonderful place for children and young people to grow up. They are aspiring to be Child Friendly Dudley, where we understand that all people and partners need to work together to create an environment where children and young people can flourish and help them face life’s challenges and realise their hopes and dreams.

More than 250 people attended and over 55 organisations were represented. Attendees were able to browse through a 'provider marketplace' and have an opportunity to talk face to face with providers and organisations to find out what Dudley has to offer for children, young people and their families.

The Dudley Health and wellbeing board have created a resource page where people can access the A-Z of services as well as seminars and videos of the event.

This was an excellent networking event as our involvement specialists were introduced to many local organisations where possible future community conversations could take place.

In May we visited Molineux Memories, a dementia café ran by the Wolves Foundation. It is a weekly group for patients with dementia and their carers, where they talk, play games, have visits from former Wolves players and look through football memorabilia. 

We heard how appointments for people with dementia all need to be face-to-face, “using the phone adds confusion and wastes more time explaining who is talking”, one of the people who acts as a carer explained. There was a consistent message that people need double appointments, to allow extra time to really understand, due to the challenges dementia can cause. There was also a feeling that unless people have experienced living with dementia or caring for dementia, it is very hard to understand the difficulties. For example, we were told that leaving to collect medication may sound simple, but with someone who has dementia, it can be quite an ordeal.

We spoke about reasonable adjustments to primary care access and the Good Practice Guides, the people were spoke to were happy with what is being proposed and were keen to encourage double appointments slots with all healthcare professionals where possible.

We met with the British Red Cross and heard about their concerns over increasing loneliness that people are facing. We also heard about the impact that loneliness is having on the health and wellbeing of people locally. They explained the work they are doing in Wolverhampton to try and increase social connections. We are going to link in with British Red Cross and OneWolverhampton to support with this work, which is trying to create more links to reduce isolation for those most affected.

On 2 May, we attended the Friends of Willenhall Park walking group. They meet every Tuesday and Thursday and the group provided drinks and refreshments for people to have a chat before and after the walk. The group has become popular within the local community and on this occasion, there were 22 people in attendance.

Our engagement colleague Natalie was revisiting the group to promote involvement in the Walsall People Panel, and she also spoke to several group members about a range of topics including exercise and accessing primary care services.

Various people said that they come to Willenhall Park Pavilion twice a week for exercise classes and attend the group walks for company. Joy, one of the group coordinators, told Natalie that many people attend the groups for the same reasons and talk about the same things. As a result, she would like more community groups to work together and so provided Natalie with contact details for the Walsall Healthy spaces team.

Another group member said they were not familiar with their GP practices process for acquiring an appointment and they did not know it was required to call up at 8.00 am. Natalie discovered that the communication from the GP practice was not very good, particularly when the practice changed their telephone number – the patient did not receive a letter or any further correspondence from the practice to notify them of the change.

Another attendee spoke of the difficulties she experiences when booking GP appointments for her husband. Her husband is deaf and cannot make appointments for himself over the telephone – as neither of them use the internet, she speaks on his behalf.

It was very informative to hear feedback from our local people, our involvement team will continue to share appropriate services with The Friends of Willenhall Park and have also informed our primary care colleagues and our Time2Talk Team of the issues raised during our visit so help and support can be provided.

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