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Healthwatch wants your opinion

Independent watchdog arranges opportunities for Surrey residents to influence where new health facility for the sickest people will be built

The local independent watchdog for health and social care has arranged for residents to give their feedback on proposals for which existing hospital site a new purpose-built facility should be built on (Epsom Hospital, St Helier Hospital or Sutton Hospital).

Epsom and St Helier hospital bosses are working on plans to secure £300-400 m to invest in a new specialist facility for acutely sick patients, where majors A&E, inpatient beds for children, births and complex emergency surgery can be delivered.

As part of this work, Healthwatch Surrey will be running showcase events, drop-in events at community, hospital and high-street locations across the local area and hosting an online survey to get as many views as possible. They will use the results of all this feedback to ensure the views are independently reviewed and shared with and considered by the trust.

Kate Scribbins, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Surrey said:
“We have been assured by the trust that the location of the new facility could be on any one of their three sites and that services currently provided on each of the sites will remain.
“We would therefore urge local people to take this early and important opportunity to have their say on how and where they would like to use their hospital services in the future.”

Healthwatch Surrey will use their independence to gather views in several ways:

• Four, one-hour ‘showcase’ events at Epsom Downs Racecourse at 8am, 11am, 4pm and 7pm on Thursday 28th September. These events will offer people the opportunity to hear about the plans, ask questions of Directors from Epsom and St Helier and give their views.

• Healthwatch staff and volunteers will be available at six drop-in events at community, hospital and high-street locations across the local area in September:

o Epsom Hospital (main entrance), Wednesday 6th September, 8am-8pm
o Banstead High Street, Friday 8th September, 8am-8pm 5th September 2017
o Cobham High Street, Friday 15th September, 8am-8pm
o Epsom and Ewell Family Fun Day, Sunday 17th September, 11.30am-4.30pm, Hook Road Arena
o Leatherhead Market, Thursday 21st September, 9am-3pm,
o Dorking High Street, Wednesday 27th September, 8am-8pm

• Online video and survey, available on the Healthwatch Surrey website:

Daniel Elkeles, Chief Executive of Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust said:
“We want local people to join the conversation and have their say about creating a brand new, £300-£400 million acute facility. We are at a very early stage in the Epsom and St Helier 2020-2030 ambitions, but hearing the views and opinions of the local people we serve will give us the best chance of securing a sustainable future for all of our hospitals, as well as creating a new state-of-the-art facility to care for generations of people to come.
“I believe that this is a very exciting opportunity for local people, our staff and our patients, and I would urge everyone to come and find out more.”

Healthwatch Surrey’s Kate Scribbins added:
“We are here to ensure the voices of everyone are heard. Everything you share with us will be kept anonymous, so you can be honest about what you think.”
Residents can also find out more and have their say at
For more information or to arrange an interview please contact Lauren ter Kuile on 07545 433465 or

Further information
• For further information about Epsom & St Helier 2020-2030, please visit the Trust’s website at or contact or via the communications team.

• Healthwatch Surrey is the independent champion for people who use health and social care services. We exist to ensure that people are at the heart of care. We listen to what people like about services, what could be improved and we share their views with those with the power to make change happen. We also help people find information they need about services in their area.

• Healthwatch has the power to ensure that people’s voices are heard by the government and those running services. As well as seeking the public’s views ourselves, we also encourage services to involve people in decisions that affect them. Our sole purpose is to help make care better.

• A local rate contact number (0303 303 0023), SMS number (07592 787 533) and email contact have been set up to help people share their experiences or get information about? services.

• People can also visit Citizens Advice in Surrey Heath, Woking, Reigate and Banstead, Runnymede, Spelthorne and Waverley to speak about their experience and get information about services.

• Healthwatch Surrey has a seat on the Surrey Health and Wellbeing Board and can alert Healthwatch England and the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to concerns about services.

“We don’t want to have to rely on other people”

“We don’t want to have to rely on other people”- more support needed to help people communicate with their GP surgery

Healthwatch Surrey is calling for GP practices, NHS England and NHS leaders to provide better support for people with communication needs.

120 people from “seldom heard” communities spoke to the local champion for users of health and social care, about their ‘GP Journey’. Some of the groups involved had specific communication needs when visiting their GP, for example; people who are deaf, people with visual impairment, people with aphasia, and members of the Nepalese community for whom English is a second language.

Most people were happy overall with the care they received from their GP, but there were common frustrations relating to problems with communication and telephone booking systems, physical access to the surgery and the lack of continuity of care for people with long term conditions.

Findings of the new report, ‘My GP Journey’ included:

  • Where surgeries offered an email contact as an alternative to phone booking (an essential alternative for those who cannot use the phone) patients told us that messages could be left unanswered for up to 2 weeks.
  • People who are deaf or experience hearing loss reported a lack of provision of British Sign Language (BSL) interpreters, hearing loops and SMS numbers.
  • Patients with certain conditions that can make communication more difficult, such as aphasia, dementia or being deaf, felt there was a need for greater understanding by some GPs and practice staff of their particular communication needs – for example not just ‘talking louder’.
  • There was little awareness of services which should make booking easier such as NHS 111 out-of-hours and online appointment booking among those we spoke to.
  • Communication wasn’t the only barrier.  Less physically able people found some surgeries difficult to navigate, including slopes which were too steep, no handrail and automatic doors that closed too quickly.


Healthwatch Surrey’s Operations Manager, Lisa Sian, explained:

‘We’re calling on NHS bosses and GP surgeries to comply with the NHS Accessible Information Standard and take action to improve access to services like online booking, interpreters, SMS contact numbers, and hearing loops, so that everyone can have equal access to GP services’.

“Community groups can help surgeries better understand what it’s like for people with specific communication needs, and highlight the relatively small things that can improve things– such as visual aids, prompt cards and alerts on their records to flag their needs to surgery staff.”

Aphasia is a condition caused by damage to parts of the brain responsible for understanding and using language. Alice Owen from Surrey aphasia charity Dyscover said:

‘Getting a GP appointment can be a struggle. For people with aphasia, it’s even harder – telephone booking is often impossible and queuing in person adds too much pressure to talk to the receptionist’

Suzie, who has aphasia and attends the support groups at Dyscover, told us “if I had some way of letting the receptionist know that I had limited speech, it would help as they could speak slower and relieve the pressure of the queue”’.

NHS and social care providers have a legal responsibility under the Accessible Information Standard (2016), to ensure that people are provided with information in a way they can easily understand and which allows them to communicate with services.

Lisa added: ‘We appreciate that GP services are under unprecedented pressure, but we hope to work more closely with providers to help them implement small changes that can make a big difference to those with communication needs.’

The report and recommendations will be shared with local NHS leaders, commissioners and GP practices, and Healthwatch Surrey will be seeking their formal responses on behalf of the public.

The report can be found at  together with an accompanying video and a copy of the report in British Sign Language.

Anyone who would like to share their experience of an NHS or social care service can contact Healthwatch Surrey on 0303 303 0023 or email