During the early days of lockdown, I was a bit worried about becoming very socially isolated.

Luckily for me I received a call early in that period from a kind and professional person from Healthwatch East Sussex. She asked me how I was getting on and what difficulties I was having from the medical and social services. Although I’m a registered blind person the only difficulty I had was with finding ordinary access to basic supplies like food and household items.

It was also very nice to be asked if I needed anything from somebody who appeared to care. I was indeed worried about being isolated but Healthwatch East Sussex helped me to talk about coping with daily life with what has come to be called The New Normal.

After a few calls Lorraine asked me if I would be interested in joining Healthwatch East Sussex as a volunteer. I was very happy to be asked and I agreed immediately.

Healthwatch East Sussex is a Watchdog organisation designed to help ordinary people get proper health and social services. It also provides a forum to gather the views from everyone about their health and care services and what is really going on.

I am one of 27 volunteers in the County. I think I am the only one who is visually impaired. I am very impressed with the other volunteers who attends meetings on Zoom as I do. (We are all meeting virtually at the moment).

I am also impressed with the vetting and introductory process. New volunteers are recruited and then check to see if they are suitable people. If I need training, then I will get it. The introductory process is careful and the attitude of everybody I have spoken to has been friendly and patient with me.

Volunteering is a very good thing to do as it allows me to make a contribution at a time like this. At a time when I have been under lockdown for three months or more.

It is very interesting to be involved in such a project that gathers the views of local people in a caring and sensitive approach.

Volunteers and Healthwatch’s paid staff are providing an introduction for me. Sometimes I feel as if I might get lost in amongst the complicated acronyms and the groups of initials used to describe many of these important service providers. But actually, I am confident that Healthwatch East Sussex and the volunteers who offer their time, will walk me through what I need to know.

In the future I might well be talking to people who have used a service that is important to them. It is very nice to be asked to take part in such an important piece of work. It is very important that services and agencies do what they are supposed to in order to help us. It is therefore important that volunteers are part of the process of finding out if what we are offered is up to standard. I’m very happy to be a volunteer and I hope to learn more and make a contribution.

Geoff Smith, a Healthwatch East Sussex volunteer

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