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Member Article

Healthwatch staff set sail by altering their course for community engagement.

Healthwatch Newcastle and Healthwatch Gateshead have dropped anchor at their new headquarters in Milburn House, Dean Street, Newcastle. The relocation to this fascinating period building, inspired by a ship’s design in its layout, pays homage to its original ship-owner proprietors.

As the team settles into their maritime-themed surroundings, they have set course to charter a different approach to their community engagement offer. In the coming months, the team plans to step out of their new offices and make waves by connecting directly with the people who utilise health and social care services in Newcastle and Gateshead.

This outreach initiative follows their recent annual joint meeting, during which Healthwatch Newcastle and Healthwatch Gateshead identified key priorities, including a focus on Mental Health, Social Care, and underserved groups such as refugees and asylum seekers. The team aims to address these priorities by being based in various community location across the city and the borough. This will enable the team to actively engage with people in their communities at specific localities, ensuring their voices and needs are heard.

Hannah Farr, Healthwatch Newcastle Lead Officer, shared insights into their approach, emphasising it is a more community-based and accessible strategy.

Hannah said, “We’ve introduced locality working to make it much easier for the public, especially those in hard-to-reach sectors of the community, to share their thoughts on health and social care issues.”

To seamlessly facilitate this transition, Hannah conducted a comprehensive mapping exercise, dividing Newcastle and Gateshead into locality areas. Using a Google map tool, she identified various venues, organisations, and places that could serve as touchpoints for the community. The process involved pinpointing key locations in each locality area that align with the needs and characteristics of the local community. Selected venues include family centres, libraries, and local community centres, ensuring accessibility and familiarity for residents.

“We’ve tried to make sure the venues that we have picked are accessible and that there’s no physical barriers to stop any member of the public accessing our service. It’s a reciprocal approach too as we are able to partner with already established organisations and offer our support to them too. It’s about fostering partnerships and building a network to enhance the impact of our services,” she said.

Yvonne Probert, CEO of Tell Us North (CIC) which provides Healthwatch Newcastle and Healthwatch Gateshead to deliver community engagement, research, evaluation, and assessment services within the fields of health, wellbeing, and social care said: “It may sound strange to hear that we have just moved our team into this wonderful building full of character and charm based on the region’s maritime history and we’re literally ‘shipping’ them out into the community.”

“Our role is to ensure social care and health commissioners and providers listen to the views of their local communities so that we can seek continuous improvements to their services. The best way to do that is by integrating ourselves deeper into the fabric of the community and becoming a part of everyday life for the people we serve.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Keith Newman .

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