Reflecting on 2020
Most of us wouldn’t have ever used these words in everyday conversation before 2020, but now we are all too aware of them. I think they sum up what has been a really tough year for everyone and I hope you have managed to stay safe. Work, family and health have been disrupted in ways we couldn’t have imagined and the challenges continue.
That said, the seasons have come and gone with all their beauty and many of us have found a new appreciation for the outdoors and what our local communities offer. Other things changed too – for example the impact of Black Lives Matter led to greater understanding of injustice and racism and a drive to address issues. Across the country, applauding front line workers on Thursday evenings provided a communal way of thanking those who did such a brilliant job.
Now Christmas is upon us and I know some of you began spreading cheer back in November, putting up decorations early. If it brings a smile to your face, then anything goes this year.
For others, this time of year can be very challenging and Healthwatch Hertfordshire is here to help point you to services that can guide you through the tough times and we encourage you to reach out if you need help.
Our team has responded to the pandemic with resilience and empathy and I thank them for their hard work and dedication. They adapted to new ways of working very quickly, (surprisingly zoom isn’t a word of the year?) while keeping a constant focus on the needs of patients.
Surveys and communications were quickly developed when Covid hit to ensure people had the latest information and could feed back to us about their experiences of the pandemic.
Our Covid-19 Report
Our Covid-19 Report, launched in October, showed where services had worked well and also where improvements were needed – better communication with patients and carers is essential going forward. The report also emphasised the challenges people faced around their mental health and the difficulties of accessing dental services.
The importance of the patient voice has never been greater and it was excellent to get so many people providing input. Thank you for contributing and to the organisations who have listened and responded to the feedback and who are using it to improve services.
Other reports issued during the year included reviewing Annual Health Checks for people with learning disabilities, which showed the uptake and quality of checks needed improvement. Work is underway to help provide a better service based on our findings.
We have also been working on projects such as an Audit of GP Websites to find out how easy it is to access cancer information, research into digital exclusion to engage with those who are not online and discuss their needs, and a study into Veterans health needs across Hertfordshire.
Despite the shift in focus due to Covid-19, our core work continued with our signposting services in high demand and our holding to account role never so important. Our involvement helped ensure that the patient and community voice is embedded in the exciting West Herts Hospital Coproduction work.
As we head into a new year, everyone still faces a lot of uncertainty. Despite the challenges, Healthwatch Hertfordshire will work to respond to whatever the future brings.
Finally, I want to thank the Board, the Healthwatch Hertfordshire team, and all our volunteers for everything they have done this year and their incredible response to all that has happened. I also want to thank you, the people of Hertfordshire, for contributing to our research and lending us your voices so that we can improve local services.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a safe, healthy New Year.
Chief Executive Healthwatch Hertfordshire