Throughout September 2023, Healthwatch East Sussex conducted various engagement activities to engage with people from Rye and the surrounding villages to hear their experiences of health and social care.

As part of our activity, we also conducted Enter and Views at various care homes and carried out a mystery shop of GP surgery websites in and around Rye.

This report summarises everything people told us, as well as setting out our conclusions and recommendations for Healthwatch, health and care services and other local partners with the goal of supporting positive change.

By Healthwatch East Sussex
Listening Tour

What we heard:

  • Whilst frustrations remain about speed of access to appointments, people’s appreciation of positive GP experiences was clear, with people sharing examples of good care from a range of staff at practices once they were able to access appointments.
  • Issues involving transport were raised by residents throughout our activity. With poor public transport provision, the cost of transport and difficulty in accessing patient transport services impacting people’s ability to access health and care services.
  • Patients reported that services don’t appear to record, accommodate or make appropriate adjustments for those with communication requirements, with people’s needs not being met and miscommunication leading to poorer health outcomes.
  • A number of areas outside of Rye, such as Camber and Icklesham, have seen local services and particularly GP provision reduced, resulting in patients having to travel further to access health care or feeling isolated within their communities.
  • People shared their positive experiences at the Conquest Hospital. People reported hard working staff and feeling safe and supported at the Emergency Department, as inpatients and during outpatient appointments.

Through surveys, focus groups, one to one conversations and events we received feedback from over 300 individuals.

Supporting Reports

Further details on what we heard are set out in the supporting reports that present the findings from the activities we undertook as part of the Listening Tour. Also included below is an Easy Read version of our overview report:

Veronica Kirwan, Executive Director of Healthwatch East Sussex commented:

“Our Listening Tours help us to gather in-depth feedback from a targeted area. Throughout Rye and the surrounding area local people were keen to share their feedback on a range of services and it has given us insight into what is working well in services and where improvements are needed.

We were told about positive outcomes delivered by health and care services and the dedicated professionals working in them, as well as the support offered by voluntary organisations.

We also found that residents in Rye experience many of the same issues faced around the country such as difficulty accessing NHS Dentistry, long wait times, accessibility.

Specifically, to Rye we heard about the impact of rural isolation and how people were struggling to access services since they had been moved out of the area and the distance needed to travel and challenging public transport.

We encourage residents to continue to speak up about their health and care so they can have their say in what the future of services should look like.”


Our recommendations

Through our report recommendations, we are calling for:

  • East Sussex County Council to ensure development of the East Sussex Local Transport Plan for 2024-2050 appropriately considers the location and access of health and care services and limited transport provision.
  • Health commissioners and providers to explore models to ensure reasonable adjustments are provided to patients with additional communication needs when engaging with services.
  • Health and care services in Rye and the surrounding area to be made aware of the transport limitations and time impacts of the cost-of-living crisis faced by some patients, and that processes are put in place to help reduce the impact. For example, providing patients reliant on bus passes with access to appointments after 9:30am.
  • Services to investigate other ways of getting services back into rural communities, including health screening, GP provision and other health services.


Next steps

  • As well as our report, we will be following up on what we have heard ourselves:
  • We will share the report and what we heard with key partners including the East Sussex Health and Wellbeing board, local health and care commissioners and providers and the wider public.
  • We will feed the learning from this Listening Tour into our priority setting and project planning for 2024/25.
  • We will produce a ‘One Year On’ report to update partners and residents on the progress that has been made since the tour.
  • We will work with Primary Care colleagues to explore options for improving access to services within the rural communities surrounding Rye. With a particular focus on GP provision, and screening services.
  • We will build and sustain relationships with key partners and communities to have a joined-up approach ensuring patient and public voices are involved in the design of local services.
  • We will work with Adult Social Care and the NHS to explore access to dentistry in care homes.

Finally, we would like to thank everyone that contributed to the delivery of our Listening Tour and to the public and patients who shared their experiences.


Tell Us Your Experiences

Please tell us your experiences of local health and care services via our Feedback Centre and let us know how this has been for you.

We want to hear if it has been good, bad or indifferent.


Help and support with Health and Care

If you need help or support related to health or care, then please contact our Information & Signposting Service via

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View the report

Click the link below to download the report

Healthwatch East Sussex Rye Listening Tour Headline Report Download File (pdf 2.38 MB)

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