Out of the mouths of Somerset babes

At the end of last year Healthwatch Somerset looked at the way that our county health services treat young people. Using a similar project run in Wiltshire as a model, they recruited 9 young people to be the focal point of the survey. They in turn talked to a range of their peers about the way young people experience the health service. They asked a range of questions designed to gauge how young people feel they are treated by the health service.

The results are fascinating. They express succinctly many of the problems that we all find with the health service. However it is refreshing to see it spelt out and so clearly by the young people in this project. One of the key findings was the necessity of having to repeat your story to different parts of the service. The NHS is meant to have joined up systems and an ability to cross refer patients notes within the service. This is not what the young people found.

41% were confused about why their details had not been passed on from one part of the service to another. As a result many feeling like they were not being listened to. A repeated theme was that young people found it “annoying”. It appeared as though the various services were not communicating with each other.

Another similar theme was poor quality of communication with the patient. Young people spoke of how they often felt that they had been forgotten. A repeated topic was that young people’s treatment was cut short without their consent. Often before they felt they were ready. This led to distrust in the service they were using and, on occasion, the wider health and social care systems on offer.

Interestingly more than half of those who fed back stated that there was not enough information and education about health and social care services available at their school, college, or university. One young person said that even when they did reach out to teachers “they had no information to provide”. They said they had to find the information they needed by themselves. This they described as not easy “when you’re in an unhealthy [mental] place.”

Four of the young people who shared feedback were social care leavers. They were asked about their experience of moving from children’s to adult social care services. The four felt there was a lack of communication between the service and users. “No emails (or) calls, I felt left alone.” | “Have a basic understanding of care leavers. Respect my history, have some discretion.” Two young people felt they were not given enough time to prepare for the transition to adult services. They felt they were rushed into circumstances they were not comfortable with. One described
how they were: “given no options, put into shared accommodation which affected my mental health negatively as there wasn’t the right support staff around.” They suggested that a “settling in period would be much better”, to allow time to adjust to the new setting.

Responding to the report Becky Applewood, of Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group noted: “The insight from this report shows just how important is to ensure children and young people are at the centre of the work we do and that we really listen to their experiences and observations. Our services need to properly meet the needs of children and young people, not the organisations and this can only be achieved by working with and listening to them.”

One comment

  • Good that these cases should be examined, and hopefully they will result in greater integration of health care rather than the increased fragmentation we are experiencing. Daft though to express findings from nine cases as percentages!

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