Presentation from Healthwatch/National Health Service (NHS).
Members received presentation from Healthwatch Harrow on GP and Dental Access in Harrow and mental wellbeing, covering a number of issues and outlining recommendations for improvement.
Amongst the key points raised were:
· Overall satisfaction with customer service but access to GP and dental services remained a problem for many people, with a number of complaints about availability of appointments and long waiting times.
· More clarity, consistency and awareness required around what services were available to residents and how they can be accessed.
· Increasing concern about commissioning of dental care and how to meet demand, not just in Harrow but on a national level.
· Focus on working with Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities as well as patients with language, mental and learning difficulties which were more likely to be disproportionately affected when trying to access different services.
· The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on health services had been significant, providing a unique snapshot of society’s needs. Key issues highlighted by the pandemic included accessing out of hours services, digital exclusion as well as ways of managing stress and anxiety, which were further exacerbated by poverty and job insecurity.
· Although easing of the lockdown restrictions was expected to have a positive impact on society in general, reliance on support services was expected to continue. While steps were already being undertaken to address this problem through additional funding from NHS England, increase in staffing levels within the community and acute services, investment in third sector organisations, and mental health work streams, further communication around the support available as well as commissioning of new services to meet the increased demand was expected to play crucial role in the post pandemic period.
Members thanked officers for their presentations and raised a number of questions which were responded to as follows:
· Although the presentation focused primarily on adult mental health services, NHS also recognised that children were equally affected and required mental health services support. A £90m in additional funding had been released by the NHS to target this problem and was seen as a step in the right direction. A transformation project for young people in Harrow was also under way.
· Although the survey, which underpinned the report, was done primarily online, face to face interactions with some local community groups were also undertaken to ensure fairness and inclusivity and these responses were fed into the report. However, it was acknowledged that community engagement and outreach remained a challenge and required further support and resources.
· Whilst the pandemic had led to a number of changes to the way services were being accessed and delivered and had allowed for complex multi-disciplinary discussions to take place, ensuring better patients access to care remained of primary importance. Therefore, it was important to learn from the pandemic and find a balanced approached which allowed further opening up to the community and the effective provision of help to those who needed it the most.
· Tooth decay in Harrow was an issue which was being addressed through a number of pathways including raising awareness around toothbrushing from a young age as well as initiatives at schools such as water fountains and focus on preventative dental care.
· Local system leaders played a crucial role in planning local support in the post pandemic period thorough effective communication, outreach and use of local networks.
Having noted the growing importance of mental health wellbeing and the essential role health services played, the Committee
RESOLVED: That the update be noted.