As the numbers of Covid-19 cases began to rise in early March, Healthwatch Redbridge began to collate the experiences of local people.
The attached report relates to information received from 188 members of the public, or concerns raised through our signposting service since the pandemic began in March 2020. Findings are included from our online survey conducted between 13th May and 25th September 2020. Additional responses have been collated from a series of focus groups held over the summer.
The following issues emerged:
People at risk of COVID-19
There was confusion amongst some respondents as they were unsure whether they met the criteria for shielding. We remain concerned that some people may have missed the support they were entitled to.
Over a third of respondents told us they were caring for someone who would be considered at high risk from COVID-19. Just over a quarter told us the person they care for received a letter or text advising them to shield. Potentially, this could mean that some people might have missed out on support they were entitled to.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
Everyone has been affected by COVID-19. We should not underestimate the impact of the pandemic on the mental health and wellbeing of communities. More support needs to be funded and developed to provide future resilience.
Communication and Accessing Information
We remain concerned that some people have struggled to find relevant and up to date information, or access appropriate services during the pandemic. The move towards more digital based services has had a positive impact on some patients as well as ensuring most practices have been able to continue to offer appropriate appointments. For some, digital platforms have been a barrier to accessing the right support in a timely manner, meaning conditions have remained untreated.
Information needs to be accessible, up to date and easy to understand for all users. More information must be made available by phone and by ensuring written information is available at public places such as GP practices and libraries etc.
The range of peoples’ experiences clearly demonstrates that some respondents were concerned and confused with the changes to their appointments during the pandemic. Health services need to provide up-to-date information to ensure patients and carers are better able to understand the changes to their appointment.
Some people told us they had taken a decision not to seek medical support or had cancelled or missed treatments. These comments raised real concerns in terms of people potentially having missed diagnosis, delays in seeking treatment, or missing treatment altogether.
Most respondents felt community support was extremely important. This was something we heard more about during our online focus groups.
Domestic and Other Abuse
There are concerns that the pandemic could lead to an increase in domestic and other forms of abuse. This is similar to the increases seen at national levels.