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Consumer champion Healthwatch Redbridge leading the charge for high quality medical care

Volunteers and board members from Healthwatch Redbridge celebrating its first birthday Volunteers and board members from Healthwatch Redbridge celebrating its first birthday

Saturday, April 5, 2014
9:00 AM

Representing the rights of residents to access the best medical care cannot be easy, with a plethora of issues to tackle including waiting times and difficulties making appointments.

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Glynis Donovan, Cathy Turland, Lorraine Silver and Athena Daniels from Healthwatch RedbridgeGlynis Donovan, Cathy Turland, Lorraine Silver and Athena Daniels from Healthwatch Redbridge

But the borough’s independent consumer champion is making a good go of it and has now reached its first birthday.

Healthwatch Redbridge marked its anniversary last month, with board staff, members, volunteers and residents joining together to celebrate its busy year.

Chief executive officer Cathy Turland said: “We are here to give people a voice locally and nationally and want to help people get the best out of their health and social care services.

“Our strapline is that everything starts with a conversation, which is what we want to engage local people in.”

Volunteers from Healthwatch Redbridge celebrating its first birthdayVolunteers from Healthwatch Redbridge celebrating its first birthday

The organisation replaced the borough’s Local Involvement Network (RedbridgeLINk) after the government stated all regions in the country needed to form their own Healthwatch.

Although “similar in a lot of ways,” the new organisation has a “national voice” through Healthwatch England.

Since its creation, Healthwatch Redbridge has tackled a range of issues.

Mrs Turland, who ran RedbridgeLINK from 2008 onwards, said: “I think a big issue for us this year was GP services. Getting appointments was a major area of concern.

“We also had a couple of GP practices which closed or transferred without a lot of notice, such as the Spearpoint surgery [Newbury Park] which moved to King George Hospital.

“That was a big problem. A lot of people said they didn’t receive a letter, so it is really important that we make records of this to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The organisation has undertaken a number of surveys, including an investigation into patient participation groups at Redbridge practices.

Mrs Turland said: “We found just over 50 per cent [of the surgeries] have one, but we could do a lot better, so we are talking to practices and supporting them with this.”

Healthwatch Redbridge has also just finished a report into school nursing services, which they are hoping to release in due course.

Staff talked to over 400 people, including parents, carers, schools and children themselves.

One of the group’s significant priorities is working with hospital trusts.

“One of our aims was to review patient experience at local hospitals, so we are working closely with the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust and Barts Health NHS Trust.

“We always say we are a critical friend because we have to be independent, stand our ground and work for our members and that is about raising issues in an appropriate way.”

After celebrating its first year, the organisation is now looking to its aims for the coming months.

These include working in partnership with neighbouring Healthwatches and working with “under-represented” groups, such as people with learning disabilities, mental health system users and members of the LGBT community.

Mrs Turland, who lives in Essex, added: “We would like to run more creative events. We don’t want bland conferences; we want things that will interest people.

“We are also keen to develop our volunteers. It is about making sure we can do the work we are setting ourselves and the only way we are going to do that is if we have enough volunteers.”

One of Healthwatch Redbridge’s successes is its existing 63 regular volunteers, who have clocked up 5,000 hours between them.

“We are very proud of our volunteers, they have put in a lot of effort. Healthwatch is all about local people having a local voice on the issues that affect them.

“We want to hear from you, whether you have had positive or negative experiences.”

For more information on Healthwatch Redbridge, visit www.healthwatchredbridge.co.uk.

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