November 2023

31% of the Black Country population are children and young people and our Integrated Care Board wants to make sure that every child and young person gets the right help, at the right time, by the right service, to ensure they meet their full potential.

For the November Board’s Feet on the Street we asked a local Community Interest Company (CIC), Aspire 4 U to seek the views of local children and young people to understand in their own words how they would describe their current mental health and the support available.

The top themes were stress and anxiety about college, work, and personal safety triggered by things such as social media, education, or work and being judged or bullied by other people and society. It’s clear that music, chatting with partners, family, and friends, and distracting themselves at the gym or with a hobby are great, healthy distractions from these challenges but that more is needed to support young people with their health concerns.  

Representatives from Aspire 4 U joined the meeting for this item. Board members had watched the full feedback video ahead of the Board meeting and a summary was played live in the meeting with young people talking about what is on their mind when they think about their own health, if they feel there is enough support and how we can ensure that the experiences of children, young people and their families are heard. After hearing the feedback, board members reflected on the views expressed along with the importance of building trusted channels to give advice to and hear the views of young people. The value of the community, voluntary and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in this space was acknowledged and the opportunity of the new system wide Children and Young People Board was also voiced.

A summary of their experiences and views can be viewed via YouTube and a transcript of the video can be downloaded.

Thanks to Aspire 4 U and the young people who took part in this work.

One Walsall is the voluntary, community and social enterprise organisation for Walsall. It works with voluntary organisations, community interest companies and individuals providing support, funding opportunities and information. Our involvement colleague attended the Health and Wellbeing Forum, which is one of the groups that One Walsall runs to share information with their members and partners. 

The forum included a talk from Sarah Cale, the founder and editor of Positive Menopause. Sarah used to work in construction until she started suffering from anxiety/panic attacks due to the menopause, which led her to do a lot of research and training. She now helps other women and runs a support group on Facebook. There is also a local Walsall support group. 

Sarah expressed that GPs don’t take women seriously when it comes to menopause symptoms and that more training is needed. She also said that men need more awareness of the menopause. 

There were a lot of discussions with our involvement colleague around next steps and helpful information. This included having a mental health topic at the next Walsall People Panel that includes a section on menopause, finding out if there is a GP who leads on menopause in Walsall that One Walsall can liaise with, and sharing information about women not having to pay for some menopause medications. There are also some supermarkets that provide sanitary products for free.

Our involvement colleague has been working to connect One Walsall and Walsall Together, who lead on primary care services and Public Health in Walsall, to look at resources and information to share with partners to provide men and women with further information on the menopause.  

George Road Community Church offers a range of activities for the local community, including an EXTEND exercise group which offers gentle exercise for over 50s every Friday. 

Our involvement colleague attended the group and spoke to around 20 attendees about their experiences. 

The themes of the conversations included access to services, NHS 111, A&E, GP practices, referrals and waiting times.   

While it was acknowledged by the group that there are a lot of services available, they raised that they don’t know where to go or who to speak to for more information. They shared that they feel comfortable contacting NHS 111, but that the experience depends on the day and how busy the service is. 

The experiences shared on waiting times and GP practices were also very varied. Some attendees had positive experiences where they didn’t have to wait long for a referral, whereas another attendee had to chase her husband’s doctor after two years, which resulted in a rereferral. GP practices showed similar contrasts, with some saying that they struggled to get an appointment and others saying that they were able to get through to their practice on the phone at 8am.   

The group had a lot of compliments for the NHS, particularly A&E staff who they called fantastic. A female attendee said that she’d had a difficult week with news about her health, but that she had been very well supported and was grateful to the staff. 

The Stan Ball Centre is part of the Bloxwich Community Partnership. It is a modern building that provides several services to the local community, such as coffee mornings, health and wellbeing sessions, older people and learning disability day centres, befriending services, arts and crafts classes and tai chi classes. Our involvement colleague spoke to several attendees at their coffee morning and health and wellbeing club. 

Two attendees shared their issues getting through to services. One woman, who is blind, has issues getting through to her GP. Another woman has struggled to get a response from Walsall Manor Hospital regarding her upcoming CT scan. She has atrial fibrillation and was looking for advice on whether she should continue taking her blood thinning medication for the scan. She called the PALS team and has left two messages with the secretary, but her calls have not been returned. 

Another attendee shared her experience having a carpal tunnel operation at New Cross Hospital. She wasn’t impressed with the service and is booked in to have her next operation at Walsall Manor Hospital. She told our involvement colleague that she cannot always get out to the group due to commitments at home. 

There were also issues raised around cost of living, with one man saying that more needs to be done for people on benefits who don’t have enough money. He knows someone who uses a food bank, only has one meal a day and only boils enough water for one drink. 

At the health and wellbeing club, our involvement colleague spoke to one man who suffered from a stroke. He now walks with a frame, can’t move his arm and his speech is impaired. He spent 12 months in hospital and had little support to live once he was discharged. Everything he had to get for his house he had to pay for including a chair lift and handles in the shower. He said that he feels let down by the NHS, and he comes to the group every week to get out of the house.  

The people who raised concerns during this community conversation were given information about the Time2Talk service or corresponding PALS teams for the acute trusts, such as the query on blood thinning medication which was escalated to Walsall Manor Hospital. Our involvement colleague also promoted the upcoming Walsall People Panel to attendees. 

Brushstrokes is a voluntary organisation that supports people in Sandwell living in financial hardship and extreme poverty. The centre also offers services including family support, immigration advice, healthy lifestyle advice, careers and job search advice and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes. 

Our involvement colleague attended a ladies group of asylum seekers with Macmillan, which had women from Iraq, Iran, Ethiopia and Nigeria in attendance. They discussed the Black Breasts Matter project to raise awareness and encourage ladies to check their breasts and attend their screening appointments.  

A woman from Nigeria explained that doctors are very different there, as they focus on natural remedies and only treat visible illnesses. Unless a lump or sore can be seen, they do not believe that it could be cancer.  

Our involvement colleague also learnt that there is very little medical knowledge in Ethiopia, so many people do not know what cancer is. Only people who have a lot of money and live in the city will see a doctor, as those who live in villages are isolated from healthcare. They won’t usually see anyone medical until they are 15 and called up to join the army. ​ 

Those from Iraq and Iran shared similar experiences. While they did know a little about cancer, they never did any screening in their own countries. They believe that speaking about cancer invites it into the home and that people can be healed by God or other deities and herbal remedies.  

A woman who has breast cancer shared that she is on hormone therapy, had a mastectomy in Greece before completing her migration to the UK and lives on £8 per week. She was referred to Macmillan by Brushstrokes, but they refused to help her as she is an asylum seeker. The involvement team is now chasing this up with Macmillan to understand the referral rules for asylum seekers.  

Following the session and the group’s interest in helping to shape services, our involvement team have shared details of the Sandwell People Panel with the centre. They have also linked in with Black Country Voices​ and have had discussions about the possibility of holding a cancer health event for asylum seekers with Macmillan. 

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