Report reveals people in Lincolnshire believe living in a rural county is a major barrier to consistent health and care.
More needs to be done to improve access to NHS services in Lincolnshire – according to hundreds of people who took part in a county-wide survey.
The findings, published in a report today by the county’s independent health and care champion Healthwatch Lincolnshire, reveal many people are struggling to get to hospital appointments because of an increase in more distant NHS services, combined with the lack of good public transport and road links.
More than 400 residents, patients and their families shared over 800 views in ‘What Would You do?’ activities, which ran from March to April to encourage people in the county to share their views about how extra money from the Government should be spent on local NHS services.
The public were asked to give their views on improving local services; share their ideas on how people can live healthier lives and what improvements they think could be made to help people access services quickly.
One person told the Healthwatch team: “Lincolnshire is very rural, and care is very sketchy, some excellent, some not so much. We struggle to get an appointment at the GP surgery and it’s difficult accessing services. We feel second class citizens compared to the bigger towns. Why shouldn’t care be the same throughout the country?”
Another said: “It is not possible to travel more than 30 mins because of disability, pain and mobility issues. I was recently offered a quick appointment for cardiology, which was at a hospital over one hour away, with no direct bus or train route to it.
“I had no one to drive me as it was an early morning appointment. I had no option but to arrange for a local hospital appointment, which took a further three months to get and that was an urgent referral because I keep falling and knocking myself and ending up in A&E!”
Other findings from the report include:
• People want to be treated ‘holistically’, not just condition or illness specific
• Technology needs to be embraced and developed as a ‘world class’ facility but not assumed that everyone will participate
• People want more information, advice and guidance about how to make better lifestyle choices and an affordable and supportive infrastructure to achieve this
• People are accepting that some health services might be delivered further from home, but they definitely want their recovery, recuperation and ongoing healthcare support delivered locally (close to home with continuity of care)
• Waiting times for appointments need to be reduced
• Diagnosis and test results needs to be much quicker
• Services need to be much more visually joined up, this also includes ‘strategies’ from any of our statutory bodies that impact on the local population.
Sarah Fletcher, Chief Executive at Healthwatch Lincolnshire, said: “The Government is investing an additional £20 billion a year in the NHS as part of the NHS Long Term Plan. We were asked to help find out what local people thought was the best way for the NHS in Lincolnshire to invest in the right services as part of this plan.
“We are grateful to all the people that took part in the surveys and focus groups. Their feedback has made it clear that rurality is a major issue, and this is not just about travel and transport. Concerns were raised about an increasing level of more distant NHS services, coupled with less preventative and community-based support.
“What we recognise from this work is that most of the messages coming through are not new and the general public want to see a more ‘joined up’ approach across all NHS services in and out of county, so that the health, public health and social care system are truly working collaboratively.
“As a Healthwatch we feel there is a good deal of misinformation and apathy across the county, with patients disengaged, with feelings of little control and inequality of provision and with this in mind there is an urgent need to reenergise and invest in our county for the future. We will be closely monitoring the local NHS’s response to this.”
The report’s findings have been presented to the Lincolnshire STP (Sustainability and Transformation Partnership), who commented: “Throughout 2019, Lincolnshire’s NHS has been conducting ongoing engagement with staff, the public, patients, their representatives and our partners, in order to best understand feedback and views upon the changes that our local health system needs to make in the coming years.
“The areas of the Healthwatch findings which stand out include travel and transport links in and out of Lincolnshire. This has been a consistent and important concern for the public, throughout this period of engagement and beyond. We are working with partners who manage the counties travel and transport to ensure these concerns are considered as progression is made.
“People are accepting that some health services might be delivered further from home, but they definitely want all their recovery, recuperation and ongoing healthcare support local. This message has also been strong from our own engagement work, similarly focused upon the acceptance that specialist care may require greater travel, but frequent and routine appointments should be delivered as close to home as possible.”
The STP now plans to continue its ‘Healthy Conversation 2019’ engagement work throughout the rest of the year, and within this, are developing more detailed public and staff workshop sessions to explore the key themes they are hearing which are important. They are also carrying out co-production work with stakeholders and partners across Lincolnshire in its Integrated Community Care programme which will consider many of the care closer to home themes that have been raised.
The Healthwatch Lincolnshire report, ‘The Lincolnshire ‘Talk About’ NHS Long Term Plan’ can be viewed here: https://www.healthwatchlincolnshire.co.uk/news/2019-07-08/what-changes-do-people-want-make-local-services-lincolnshire