Chair's Health Blog - November 2014
Health issues have certainly dominated the news recently, from the terrible stories of suffering caused by the Ebola Crisis to changes in the way that waiting times are monitored with regard to mental health care. What strikes me about all the news stories of this type is that they don’t come alive to most of us until we hear about the individuals affected by them, and in turn we start to see how they might affect us or those we care for. News journalists might argue that it is their job to help us make those connections and to arouse feelings of empathy for the hard working staff as well as the patients, but some less scrupulous journalists can be selective in the information they give us, leading to a false picture of what is really happening. After all – what do most people prefer to read in their daily paper? A story about how hard the nurses, doctors and care workers are working to try to meet constantly increasing demand? Or a ‘shock’ piece about another ‘failing hospital’? I’m sorry to say that it’s more likely to be the latter.
At Healthwatch we are very aware of our duty to ensure that all the messages we share with local citizens are based on fact, not just one person’s, possibly limited, opinion. That is why we have started to work more closely with local partners in the health and social care sector to ensure we are getting all the facts, but also to conduct our own independent research to test out what we are being told. In the last month we have used our power to ‘Enter and View’ across a number of departments in Scunthorpe General Hospital and we have plans in place to extend this to a range of other services used by the public on a daily basis. Our findings were fed back to the managers in charge within a few hours of making our observations, and our feedback was welcomed and improvements made, sometimes on the spot. At some point we will publish a report of this aspect of our work, making sure that we provide a balanced account of what was good and what was not so good. However we will not be looking to make headlines; just working to ensure that individuals get the very best care that is available.