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Learning from people’s stories and experiences helps shape our plans

When we were asked to support the development of the Surrey Heartlands future plans, we decided to run a programme of public engagement and research in Surrey. By involving the local community in the research process, in line  with the ethical principle of “nothing about us, without us,” we can hear from local people about their experiences – what’s working well and what isn’t – and our research also becomes more credible.

Throughout October we have been seeking out the views of all those who use NHS, health and care services in Surrey.

In particular, we were keen to gather insights into people’s experiences of accessing and using primary care, emergency and hospital services, but also their experiences with integrated care (health and social care services, shared care records), social prescribing, prevention, their preference and attitudes around specialised hubs versus very localised services, as well as their experiences with hospital discharge pathways.

We found that most people had a lot to say, and were very keen to share their stories. But it’s not just the quantity of people we talk to, because of the quality and depth of conversations, we are able to really understand what people’s experiences are and provide robust, meaningful feedback to shape our plans and priorities.

It's clear there is a lot of support for the NHS, which is always encouraging to hear and we also heard a lot of gratitude, especially for all the frontline staff working so hard to provide care to people and their loved ones.

Analysis of findings

An initial analysis of the insight collected has highlighted the following themes:

  • Access to local GP surgeries - Still a key challenge, particularly in terms of booking (timely) appointments.
  • Frustration about long waiting times for appointments - Both in primary care and hospital care settings.
  • A clear need and desire for greater investments in the workforce - With lack of incentives, support and better working conditions this was seen as one of the key factors driving poor health care outcomes.
  • Appetite for more direct, frequent and personalised communications with patients about their health needs - And reassurance that they “are in the system” particularly if faced with long waiting times between referrals and appointments. Where this was in place, people reported more positive experiences, and greater sense of agency, “being in control” over their health journey.
  • Greater coordination between health and social care services - Particularly in the context of hospital discharge and post-discharge care.
  • Continuity of care as a key factor determining experiences with health and care services - The most positive experiences all had to do with establishing direct and long-term relationships with healthcare professionals (such as GPs, consultant, nurses). There is a recognition that this is not always possible, but equally this is a central factor determining people’s satisfaction with NHS services.
  • A desire to see greater investments in local services, as these feel closer, more in touch with people and their community - Some people mentioned having access to a single GP surgery in their local area, unable to cater for the growing population, particularly given project of urban development. One person said: “If the village is expanding, so do the number of services available.”

Read our Blog to find out how we spoke to people across Surrey and our next steps.

How learning from people’s stories and experiences is helping to shape our plans

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