6.1. The Board considered a report providing an overview of Healthwatch East Sussex’s Annual Report 2020-21 – On equal terms: Then and now.
6.2. The Board asked whether Healthwatch should focus on access to primary care, in particular dentistry.
6.3. Simon Kiley, Evidence and Insight Manager, said Healthwatch had been relaying concerns about access to dentistry – as well as other services like GP practices, Emergency Departments and NHS 111 – to all avenues possible, including through its national network, and via the Sussex Health and Care Partnership (SHCP), where it has representation. It is seeking responses from the relevant commissioning organisations responsible for these services.
6.4. The Board asked about how people have been able to access GP services during the pandemic
6.5. Dr David Warden said it has been extremely difficult for GP practices during COVID-19, however, many have coped well and developed new ways of working including virtual appointments and triage. In addition, they have maintained face-to-face appointments and have been delivering a significant component of the vaccine programme. Dr Warden agreed that access to GP services has room for improvement, however, the public also needs to be made aware of all the other urgent care options available to them, including NHS 111 and local pharmacies, that may be more appropriate than seeing a GP in many cases. Elizabeth Mackie, Volunteer and Community Liaison Manager, said she had received lots of good examples of GP practices working well and that the main concerns of patients related to access to dentistry.
6.6. The Board asked whether the CCG has produced the pre-merger guidance for GP Practices mentioned by Healthwatch.
6.7. Ashley Scarff said there is not specific guidance as each merger is unique, but the CCG will work closely with all GP practices planning to merge through a framework of areas such as patient lists, how specific sites are managed, the different needs of patients and geography between sites. All learning from a completed merger is then taken on board and applied for future mergers. Elizabeth Mackie added that the largest number of contacts about GP practices received by Healthwatch relate to overwhelmed telephony systems caused by a merger of practices. Simon Kiley agreed that it was important that the CCG prompts practices to have early discussions about facilities and infrastructure, as issues such as telephone systems being overloaded otherwise come to light when it is too late. He added that COVID-19 played a role in the issues around telephony by placing additional demand on phone systems that otherwise would not have been there.
6.8. The Board asked whether the list of top 5 priorities for 2021/22 was in any kind of order and if so, why Children and Young People – wellbeing, especially mental health was last.
6.9. Elizabeth Mackie said the priorities were not hierarchical and there is already a project underway for young people with mental health. Healthwatch has also recruited 10 young people to help develop a Young Healthwatch for people aged 14-18 and one of their key priorities is young people’s mental health.
6.10. The Board RESOLVED to note the report and thank Healthwatch for its work in complying the report and engaging with residents.