People in Sunderland value the support they received from the NHS during COVID-19, according to the results of latest research.

Earlier this year Healthwatch Sunderland undertook research on behalf of All Together Better (ATB) to gather feedback from local people who had accessed out-of-hospital health and care services throughout the pandemic.

Almost 600 people shared their experiences by responding to a survey or taking part in interviews. The questions covered a number of areas including:

  • Community health and care services, including GPs, pharmacies and community nursing teams
  • Experiences of taking and being prescribed medication
  • Experiences of using the City’s Recovery at Home service, which supports people with long term, complex conditions in their own home, or after discharge from hospital
  • Being discharged from hospital and the support received from the Integrated Discharge Team

The results from patients and carers was positive with high levels of satisfaction reported from patients and carers who accessed health and care services over the last 18 months.

The highest levels of satisfaction in community services was with local GP practices and pharmacies with most people agreeing that the majority of health and care staff worked well together in their local area.

Key highlights

  • Experience with GP practices was predominately positive. Of those who responded to the survey, 72% rated their face-to-face GP appointment as very good or good and 67% of respondents rated virtual appointments as very good or good.
  • There were high levels of satisfaction from patients who had an appointment with a nurse practitioner or practice nurse with 78% of respondents rating their appointment as very good or good.
  • 80% of respondents rated their experience of using local pharmacies as very good or good.
  • There were high levels of satisfaction with Recovery at Home service. A number of people said that this service helped them avoid having to go to the local Emergency Department or a hospital admission.
  • Almost half of respondents stated that they take regular medication and would be happy to have a review. Over 50% of these said they would be happy for this to be done by phone or video call.

There were areas for improvement identified within the feedback, including:

  • Involving patients, carers and their families more in decisions around discharge.
  • Being able to access a GP appointment, especially face-to-face.
  • Having adequate support in place at home after discharge from hospital.

Dr Martin Weatherhead, Chair of ATB Sunderland and a practising GP in the City, said: “Listening to the views of our patients and their families and carers is vitally important and I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to provide their feedback.

“It’s very reassuring to hear that local people value the services we have in Sunderland and are satisfied with the care they received throughout COVID-19. We appreciate that many things had to change rapidly as we dealt with the pandemic, but the overall feedback is testament to the fantastic team we have in Sunderland and the unique way that they have worked together as a system to provide the very best care to our patients. I would like to thank each and every one of them for their continued efforts at such as challenging time.

“This feedback incredibly important and will help us to continue to build on the work we have done throughout COVID-19 and make vital improvements to our services as we recover.”

Throughout the pandemic, health and care teams had to adapt quickly and in some cases fundamentally change the way that patients accessed services. This research will be vital in helping ATB understand what matters the most to people in all parts of Sunderland. It will also help NHS and partner organisations see what needs to be improved or adapted in the future as the NHS recovers from the global pandemic.

All Together Better (ATB) is an alliance of health and care partners in Sunderland who are committed to working together to improve how care is delivered in local neighbourhoods across the City. Their aim is to make sure our community services are organised well so people have a good experience of care.

You can read the full report here.

If you want to speak directly to Healthwatch Sunderland about your experience of healthcare in Sunderland please contact (0191) 5147145.