More needs to be done to improve access to quality locally-based care in Devon, particularly for those suffering with Autism or Dementia, according to hundreds of people who took part in a county-wide survey.

The findings, published in a report today by a collaboration of the county’s independent health and care champions Healthwatch Torbay, Healthwatch Plymouth and Healthwatch Devon, also reveal that most patients in Devon would like to see the NHS focus on preventative medicine and early detection of illness, as well as a reduction in the time they wait to see their GP or receive a referral, and improvements in the use of technology and online services.

Nearly 1000 Devon residents, patients and their families took part in ‘What Would You do?’ activities, including surveys and specific medical condition focus groups, which launched in March, to encourage people in the county to share their views on how extra money from the Government should be spent on local NHS services.

The public were also 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.

Key themes covered in the report include waiting times, continuity of care, NHS funding and resources, patient-staff communication, the closure of local services, and promotion of preventative care. Devon residents particularly mentioned that:

  • they would like to see the NHS focus on preventative medicine and early detection of illness, and also a reduction in the time they wait to see their GP or receive a referral;
  • they are concerned about the accessibility and quality of care in their area, especially due to the lack of public transport in areas of Devon, with those in rural areas describing difficulties in travelling to GP and hospital appointments;
  • they are concerned about the quality and affordability of local residential homes;
  • many suffering with autism, dementia, and mental health were unhappy with their experience of care, reporting long waiting times and difficulty accessing support, whereas many suffering with cancer said the opposite;
  • the NHS would benefit from better communication between services, allowing a more integrated or holistic approach to their treatment;
  • their medical treatment should be a joint decision made in partnership with staff;
  • mental health awareness and overcoming the stigma of the condition in receiving diagnosis and treatment is very important;
  • they would like to see improvements in the use of technology and online services, with many wanting to see more of their GP services available online;
  • they were still, however, concerned that some local services are too reliant on online services (often at the expense of those who cannot use or access a computer), about the security of their personal data and ‘a future where personal contact is replaced by technology’.

All of the feedback of nearly 1000 people in Devon will join up with nearly 23 thousand other people’s views nationally through other reports produced by local Healthwatch across the entire country.

These will be fed directly into the development of the NHS’s local plans, explaining how they will deliver the priorities set out in the NHS Long Term Plan, an outline how the NHS will move forward to meet the changing health and wellbeing needs of the population over the next 10 years.

Dr Kevin Dixon, Chair at Healthwatch Torbay, explained:

“The Government is investing £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 Devon to invest in the right services as part of this plan.

It was wonderful to listen to so many people keen to make a difference in our local NHS. These views are all in the report and we will now closely monitor how the local NHS responds.

I’d like to thank everyone who took part, particular the focus groups for sufferers of long term conditions such as Cancer, Heart & Lung, and Dementia, and our neighbouring local Healthwatch organisations. ”

The new Devon report, ‘NHS Long Term Plan, What would you do?’ will be shared with the local NHS and can be viewed online here

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