|Over the last nine months Healthwatch East Sussex has fed the learning captured in May and June 2020 into discussions with our health and care, statutory and voluntary sector partners to inform responses to the pandemic, and the future design and delivery of services.
In the second and third lockdowns, we used insight from the survey results to help health and care commissioners provide clear, transparent and accessible information to the public when changes were made to lockdown rules and service delivery. We also worked to provide advice and information directly to help people navigate the changes.
Our findings on the risks of people delaying appointments when needing help have contributed towards services remaining open and adapting to pandemic conditions. The evidence has also helped highlight where services were not working, such as dentistry and GP access, so that action could be taken, although some of these issues remain unresolved.
One of our most important recommendations that we are sharing with multiple services is the crucial need for statutory services to recognise the crucial role of parents, carers, family members and schools in communicating messages to children and young people. Whilst the use of technology, social media and websites is high amongst under-18s, distilling multiple or complex messages is often undertaken through conversations with adults.
The scale and significance of friends, family and carers in providing support to vulnerable people and those that require support on a daily basis is becoming more widely recognised by service providers and our insight has helped make this happen. We will continue to convey this message.
Our future work will include using our evidence to make sure patient choice remains a key priority for the delivery of future health and care services. We will continue to highlight the needs and preferences of different groups, including for face-to-face engagement, so that these can be recognised and understood by commissioners and providers.
Further investigation into the preferences of different gender, ethnic and demographic groups is needed to better understand the suitability of communication tools to support different services. Our insight shows that a particular emphasis is needed to act upon the views of children and young people aged under-18. This may be particularly important in relation to COVID-19 vaccinations.
Since the surveys, we have also undertaken initiatives to learn more about some of the themes identified by respondents, such as dentistry, separation from care home residents and the use of virtual and remote appointments. This has helped expand our understanding and guide our activity.
We will continue to share our insight so that it can help services plan for recovery from COVID-19, such as how commissioners and service providers can prepare for increases in demand, but also how they seek to adapt to changing preferences and expectations.