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A new report out today from Healthwatch Gloucestershire reveals local people’s experiences of health and social care during the first six months of Covid-19.

It highlights common issues people have faced and how these have changed over time, and it identifies the challenges and achievements of a health and social care sector turned upside down by the pandemic.

Between April and September 2020, 181 Gloucestershire residents shared their comments about how their health and care had been affected Covid-19, helping to identify where changes to services have worked well and where improvements could be made.

The majority of feedback was about accessing GP services, followed by hospitals services. There was an even spread of feedback about other services including pharmacies, social care, community nurses, opticians, and dentists.  Several key themes emerged.

  • Although the public have some understanding of the difficulties of delivering health and social care services during a pandemic, underlying anxiety remains.
  • Where services worked well, they were genuinely appreciated.
  • Delays to treatments left people feeling worried and in distress.
  • While some people appreciated the move to remote appointments, either for convenience or because it keeps them away from healthcare settings, others found them inadequate or inaccessible – one size does not fit all.
  • Over the course of the pandemic, from lockdown to the easing of restrictions, people’s experiences and sentiments about the same service changed.

GP services

Early in lockdown people did not want to be critical and they were appreciative of the services that GPs were providing, but in early July feedback became more negative. While some people were appreciative of the remote consultations, many more were frustrated at not being able to see or speak to GP, at difficulties getting through on the phone and at navigating the eConsult system.

Pharmacies

Early in the pandemic, people shared good and bad experiences of trying to access medication, but as time went on, feedback improved.  Overall, people were appreciative of the continued delivery of medication and reported the system running smoothly.  In some cases, there was a breakdown of communication between GPs and pharmacies, so patients could not get their medication at the right time.

Hospitals

Feedback about hospital services was mixed over the first sixth months of the pandemic. Concerns were mostly about anxiety and disappointment around cancelled appointments, patient backlog and lack of in-person consultation. However, other people were hugely appreciative of the staff and the services they were providing in extraordinary circumstances, and some reported quick treatment and good service.

Social care

Early on, feedback about social care was largely negative, with mixed sentiment as the pandemic progressed. The biggest concern was about the risk of carers going from one client to the next without being tested for the virus. Other concerns were about the vulnerability of unpaid carers, and what might happen to the person they cared for if they were to become unwell, as well as worries for unpaid carers in need of a break. Overtime Gloucestershire’s voluntary organisations were praised for their work supporting vulnerable people.

Community services

Although little feedback was received about community services, people greatly valued the continued support of the community nursing team.  As restrictions eased there was some negative feedback about frustrations with the system rather than services delivered.

Healthwatch Gloucestershire shared real-time feedback with local health and social care providers throughout the pandemic to help them respond quickly and effectively.  This new report, which provides feedback over a sustained period, will help health and care professionals understand how to deliver the care people need – now as they manage a rise in Covid-19 cases while trying to catch up with a backlog of treatments, and also in the future as new models of care are developed.

Healthwatch Gloucestershire Manager, Helen Webb, said: “This is a good and timely point to reflect on how Covid-19 has affected people’s experience of health and social care in Gloucestershire, and the country.  NHS and social care providers faced pressures like never before in the face of the pandemic. New and modified models of health and care delivery have been introduced; changes have worked better for some people than for others. It has never been more important that the voices of people who use health and social care services are heard. We have shared the anonymised feedback that we received with the people who plan, run and deliver health and social care services in Gloucestershire, so that they can used it to develop and improve their services for local people.”

Read the full report: Gloucestershire health and social care – Six months of Covid-19: What local people told us.