December 2022

We met with a number of voluntary and community sector organisations at the Brierley Hill Cluster Connect meeting at the Civic Centre in December.

It was fantastic to see so many organisations come together to find out more about what's happening in Brierley Hill and the support on offer for local people in the area.  Everyone spoke very positively about the network and are very interested in keeping the momentum going in the new year, where there will be focus on key topics of interest. There are cluster connect meetings happening across all areas of the Dudley borough, which the Involvement Team will also connect with.

On 13 December 2022, we had the pleasure of meeting Ryecroft Community Hub, who are a voluntary led charity working for the local community in Walsall.

In 2012, they were chosen to lead a new initiative, called ‘Community Hubs’, to meet the greater needs that now exist because of difficult economic conditions. These needs were identified through service users and consultation events and include five distinct pillars:

  • Employment and training
  • Crime and anti-social behaviour
  • Children and young people
  • Elderly
  • Fitness and well-being.

Ryecroft encourages community led projects, as this has the added benefit of empowering the community, providing a voice, and becoming independent.

Natalie, a member of our involvement team, spoke with Paul Staples, one of the coordinators at Ryecroft. Paul detailed how the community hub has a main hall as well as a few small rooms - the small rooms allow those with Learning Disabilities or Autism to experience classroom-style learning opportunities, whereas the hall is booked with activities such as pub games, exercise, indoor bowls etc.

In addition to this, Ryecroft offer help with Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and grant payments. They recently received a grant to help provide food to vulnerable members of the community, and this was spent on supermarket vouchers which are now being distributed daily to those who seek help from the hub.

While at the hub, Natalie spoke to four members of the local community who were taking part in an activity group and sought out any opinions or concerns in relation to healthcare services. Some common themes that arose were:

  • GP access – increased wait times and no consistency or guarantee in seeing the same GP
  • Hospital communication – lack of communication between Trusts when discussing patient health concerns
  • Comfortability when booking appointments – some group members noted that they did not feel comfortable discussing private health matters when booking in with GP receptionists and would prefer to discuss them confidentially with a healthcare professional.

Feedback from the hub has been shared with commissioners and will be used to inform our NHS Joint Forward Plan which sets out how NHS organisations will work together to meet the future health needs of people in the Black Country. Members of our involvement team will be returning to Ryecroft Community Hub in January 2023 to go through our survey for the NHS Forward Plan, so we can better understand the importance of these issues for local people.

We visited the Your Health Matters event, held at Jamia Masjid Bilal in Wolverhampton. The event is the fourth in a row being hosted by Gulshan Radio in partnership with the ICB. At the mosque we saw people queuing up to have their free health checks and spoke to some who were picked up as having a high BMI and with an increased risk of developing diabetes. They were referred on to consultants for further exploration, which may be a crucial step in preventing a long-term condition.

We had the opportunity to meet with the RMC, an award-winning charity, founded in 1999, specialising in assisting refugees and migrants through crisis and disadvantage, by removing barriers to their integration and enabling them to become equal citizens. 

We heard some positive feedback, "Warstones Surgery are the perfect example of best practice for supporting migrants, during the covid pandemic they asked RMC how they could make things easier for a family who were illiterate, as a result they doubled their appointment times, let them book in advance which allowed enough time to book an interpreter and emailed the RMC all appointment reminders."

We learnt how digital assess for appointments is a huge barrier for refugees and migrants who rarely have any form of ID, as ID is required to use the NHS app, therefore their only choice is to call up.  As many do not yet speak English the language barrier makes it very difficult to navigate recorded message system and book an appointment.  The RMC regularly support with this, but phonelines open at 8am and RMC open at 9am, so daily appointments have usually all gone at this time.  We have shared this with the board who are addressing the issue.

Many refugees and migrants do not have digital devices, which we previously discussed with RMC, therefore we shared the BC Connected platform for the RMC to promote to try and get Geobooks to people who need them. For more information on this project visit their webpage.

It was a delight to attend West Bromwich Town Hall to meet this fantastically diverse group of people who are working in a variety of ways to support their fellow citizens in Sandwell

We heard updates from various community organisations and volunteers, but one standout was Crafting for Communities, who we met for the first time at this event. This group began during the pandemic as a way for keen crafters to use their skills to make a difference to others – ranging from embroidering hospital scrubs to give NHS staff a smile, through to crocheting “worry worms” for children who are staying in domestic violence shelters. The project now has more than 2,000 members and is still going strong following the pandemic.

November 2022

During November we spent time in public locations and with community groups asking members of the public three questions which could be used to help inform our Joint Forward Plan.

The questions were:

1. What’s worrying you and how will this impact on your health now or in the future?  

2. What should the NHS be focussing on? Today and in the future?  

3. What steps could health and care leaders take to support people and communities to manage their own health and happiness?  

The Board of the ICB were played a short compilation of what we heard, at their meeting in November, which you can view here.

The Board recognised the concerns about waiting times, loneliness, mental ill health and the future state of the NHS, which are becoming common in the feedback our communities give to us. In addition to these areas, they also heard peoples worries relating to exam related stress and support for children/young people, paying bills and the rising cost of living.  The board discussed the impact of these issues on people’s health, confirming the importance of our partnership work across the Integrated care System to address them.

The Board requested more views on social isolation at the next meeting so watch this space for the next feet on the street.

We have been out to meet the new Healthwatch team in Wolverhampton who have been busy working on a primary care review of GP access standards in Wolverhampton, comparing the results to March 2021. Once complete, they will publicise the results and share the report.

We have shared ideas for future joint working across Wolverhampton. We will be attending their stakeholder day, which will shape their forward plan for 2023 and coordinate our strategies to engagement, so that our work compliments each other.

Healthwatch are always looking for volunteers, which is a great way to get back into employment. They are active on social media, you can follow them on Instagram, facebook and twitter.  Find out more on their website.

We have been to visit OneWolverhampton to find out about the great work they are doing across the city. They are an inspiring team who are proud of Wolverhampton and passionate about working with the local community to improve lives of those facing health inequalities. We discussed various patient experiences across primary care and health/social care. We heard about challenges the deaf community are facing, particularly with access to support and discussed how better signage could improve inclusivity. We have planned regular joint working, to increase collaboration and explore ways to tackle health inequalities as a team. 

We visited Dudley Voices for Choice at DY1 Community Building on 18 November to find out more about the fantastic work that they are doing and how we can work together to ensure that the voices of people living with learning disabilities / autism are represented and heard. We had the opportunity to talk to people about their experiences of having the winter vaccines, their reasons for having it and how they have overcome their own anxieties and fears of having the vaccines. We will be visiting them again in December to have a conversation about their experiences of healthcare services, what is worrying them right now, what the NHS should be focussing on and the support they may need to manage their own health and happiness.

On 15 November, we visited the Beacon Centre with Community Development Worker, Mohammed Yasin from Black Country Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust to talk about mental health support and how we can get involved and hear the voices of people that are visually impaired. We plan to go along to some of the fun and sociable activities they have planned in the new year to provide signposting information and to talk to people that use the services.  

On November 14, Natalie, a member of our involvement team, met with a co-ordinator for Places of Welcome in Walsall.

Places of Welcome are run by local community groups who want everyone in their neighbourhood to have a place to go for a friendly face, a cup of tea and a conversation if and when needed. Places of Welcome take place in a variety of different venues including churches, community centres, libraries, mosques, temples, and other community group buildings across the UK.

There are over 450 across the UK, including numerous across the Black Country - each is unique, but all provide a place for people to connect with one another, find belonging and offer gifts and skills that interest them.

Further formation, including the location of Places of Welcome across the Black Country, will be shared with other ICB Involvement Specialists. This will allow the team to attend sessions in each of our four places. As a result, we can listen to the views and experiences of local people, and what ideas they have to improve health and care locally.

Click here for more information on Places of Welcome.

We visited WVCA to discover more about their role and to hear about the vast range of communities they support.  We had the opportunity to talk to people about their rehabilitation journeys and how people have been turning their lives around through support from SUIT.  We also heard stories about people who have addressed a range of issues and positively transformed their lives with the help of social prescribers.  We will continue to work closely with WVCA to keep the conversation going to understand how the NHS can evolve in how we support the different communities we serve.

For more information visit: Wolverhampton Voluntary & Community Action | Making a positive difference for people in Wolverhampton (

We attended the Community Information Celebration event, organised by Healthwatch on 4 November at Wellington Road Community Centre.  This event was for people, communities and organisations to find out more about services available in Dudley to help people keep safe, healthy and living well at home. It was fantastic to have a conversation with local organisations to find out how they are supporting people and how we can get involved in hearing the voices of local people that may be experiencing health inequalities.  

We visited Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton and heard stories from local refugees & migrants using a variety of mediums to engage with communities such as recording voices in a telephone box, the lantern parade and making a music video. There was a recurring theme of digital exclusion due to the cost of Wifi.

We learnt how the regeneration of Whitmore Reans has engaged the local community to create a place they are proud to live in.  It was a very positive experience, seeing the impact of working together to agree the needs of a community and we met various local groups to contact in the future for targeted engagement.

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