Healthwatch in Sussex helps patients deliver early impact by directly engaging patients with the NHS

December 12, 2023


Healthwatch in Sussex brought together 31 Sussex patients with the Outpatient transformation team, NHS Sussex, over the course of four two-hour workshops earlier this year. Workshop participants were able to offer their views and opinions directly to the NHS Sussex team, regarding plans to make changes to the outpatient system. To find out what we did and how we did it, see sections at the bottom of this article.

“The outpatient system is currently under pressure, with a huge increase in people needing appointments, delays for patients needing care, and some patients being left for months without knowing where they are in the system. Healthwatch welcomed this opportunity for patients to directly help deliver improvements while making it clear to the NHS what isn’t currently working and making suggestions for what needs changing.” Michelle Kay, Project Lead, Healthwatch Brighton and Hove.

How have people been affected by the current outpatient system?

“I have been notified of results months and months later.”

“The patient shouldn’t have to go through the issue again and again.”

“My partner is my carer but was told to sit outside. I am useless without her – she is my memory.”

“In the last six months my appointments have been booked, cancelled, and rebooked.”

“I am the sole carer for my mother who lives in a rural area. Travelling is difficult as my mother is in a wheelchair.”

“We need to give clinicians time to know about their patients – they don’t even know why you are there!”

“It is not individuals; it is the system.”

What did NHS Sussex want to achieve


NHS Sussex also highlighted that the current system needs change and improvement. This is partly due to a 20% increase in the numbers of outpatients between 2021-2022. The planned changes aim to reduce unnecessary hospital attendances, enable GPs to receive earlier expert advice, and give patients more control over their own care.

“We wanted to understand what matters to patients and how we need to adapt our programme accordingly. These workshops were well attended with all participants making a valuable contribution. The discussions and points raised were of huge value to our programme plan going forward. Overall, the workshops and deliberative engagement process exceeded our expectations, and we are incredibly grateful to everyone involved.” Head of Outpatient Transformation, NHS Sussex.

What difference has been made?

Healthwatch Brighton and Hove presented findings and recommendations from these workshops, on behalf of Healthwatch in Sussex. NHS Sussex responded that the views and opinions of workshop participants had already made impact. These are highlighted in the Healthwatch report:

Workshop participants called for:

NHS Sussex responded:

Better patient communication about appointments, including having a clear indication of where a patient is on the waiting list, and the ability to respond to and request an appointment change.
NHS Sussex is one of three systems in the UK piloting an expanded version of the NHS App. The App will provide patients with appointment notifications & reminders and enable patients to respond and request changes to appointment dates.
Greater involvement of GPs in any new changes.
GPs are helping to inform the proposed changes, by working directly with NHS Sussex.
Improved training and support for GPs; ensuring that advice shared by consultants was easily accessible by GPs.
Focus has been given to improving turnaround time of advice provided by consultants to GPs. Through a feedback system, GPs can offer their view on how this system is working for them and directly influence changes.
Patient notes to be available wherever patients receive care, including outside of their local area. If offered an earlier appointment at a different location to their local hospital, patients need to know there will be consistency of care.
Patient notes are being shared across all providers within Sussex, so that patients should receive consistent care wherever they receive it.
Patient records should include notes on a patient’s availability for last-minute appointments and willingness to travel outside the local area.
The expanded NHS App will also store information on a patient’s willingness to travel and availability for last-minute appointments.
Patient written information should be clear and visual aids should be used where possible.
National communication in the form of a patient-focused video has been shared with all hospitals in Sussex. Maps and links to hospital websites are being included in patient letters, to simplify and provide visual aids.
Identifying and supporting patient groups who find it particularly challenging to attend appointments.
Voluntary and community sector organisations across Sussex are helping to identify and support patient groups who find it particularly challenging to access outpatient appointments, and work is taking place with NHS Sussex to find solutions to issues where possible.
Communication publicising changes to the outpatient system should be available in a range of formats.
NHS Sussex is working with the hospitals across Sussex to ensure information is available in a range of formats, including overseas languages, and to ensure that information about any changes is provided clearly. NHS Sussex and Healthwatch will work together to ensure that feedback about communication is reviewed and that it shapes the information provided.


NHS Sussex are also represented at the NHS England “national missed appointments” meeting. Sharing feedback from the Sussex outpatient project is having an impact on the national system.


Click here to read Healthwatch findings in full


“Patients should not be passive recipients of healthcare. But rather active users who are prepared to give their opinion and ensure they influence the service they receive.”
Participant comment on effective patient involvement

What we did

Healthwatch in Sussex (a collaboration between Healthwatch Brighton and Hove, Healthwatch East Sussex, and Healthwatch West Sussex) was commissioned by the Outpatient Transformation Team, at NHS Sussex. We were asked to run workshops with the purpose of gaining participant views on four new initiatives being explored to improve the Outpatient experience.

Four initiatives

The four proposed initiatives are part of NHS England’s Outpatient Recovery and Transformation Programme, namely:
• Advice and Guidance – consultants providing advice to GPs directly.
• Utilising system capacity (also known as patient choice) – offering alternative appointments outside the local area.
• Patient initiated follow-up – patients given the choice to decide if and when they need a follow-up appointment.
• Reducing ‘Did not attends’ (DNAs).


Click here for further information on these initiatives



For media enquiries, please contact:

Michelle Kay, Project Lead, Healthwatch Brighton and Hove

01273 234 040,

Tell Us Your Experiences

If you have an experience of outpatient services in Sussex, then please share your experiences with your local Healthwatch via the contact details below. We want to hear your story.

Local Healthwatch can also support people with any health or care enquiry or feedback on any health or care services.

Healthwatch Brighton &Hove / Tel: 01273234 040


Healthwatch East Sussex / Tel: 0333101 4007


Healthwatch West Sussex / Tel: 0300012 0122


Sign up to our mailing listKeep up-to-date with Healthwatch East Sussex and receive regular information on our activities and how you can have your say on local health and social care services

For detail on how we use your data please view our privacy policy here.