There's been lots going on behind the scenes with the Pioneering Care Partnership's (PCP) Healthwatch Sunderland project - from being shortlisted in national awards, achieving change from a national campaign and more!
PCP is proud to deliver Healthwatch to the people of Sunderland, to support communities to have a say on health and social care concerns. The team have gone above and beyond to successfully campaign for accessibility improvements to the national breast screening programme. Breast screening patients across England are set to benefit from more accessible communications thanks to a woman joining forces with Healthwatch Sunderland for vital improvements.
Sharon Bell who has learning disabilities, received an invitation for a routine mammogram in easy read - a format which she needs to fully understand written information about her care.
But when the results of the mammogram meant that Sharon had to be recalled for further tests, the additional letters she received were not in easy read, meaning the 58-year-old had difficulty following them.
Sharon highlighted her experiences to Healthwatch Sunderland, which raised the issue with national bodies NHS England and NHS Improvement. As a result, a series of template follow-up letters have now been translated into easy read, improving the experiences - and potentially the safety - of countless breast screening patients across the country.
Sharon said: “When I received the letter to go to the hospital I didn’t know what it said, as it wasn’t in easy read. This made me nervous, but I spoke to Healthwatch and now I feel really good that we have been able to help so many women across the country who need easy read letters.”
Sharon is a founder member of Sunderland People First, a group of self-advocates with learning disabilities and autistic people, since it was created in 1994 and recently announced her retirement after 28 years of campaigning for the rights of people with a learning disability.
Commenting on how important it is to have supported women with a learning disability to attend cancer screening, Sharon added: “People need easy read information at the start to understand what is involved. This can help you feel confident to ask any questions and think about what would make your screening appointment easier for you.”
Tara Johnson, Project Lead of Healthwatch Sunderland, said: “It was very concerning that lots of women who needed further investigations after routine mammograms were not receiving letters in formats they could understand, as this could cause unnecessary additional worry and distress and could potentially have safety implications if appointments are missed and delays caused to diagnosis."
From its campaign, Healthwatch Sunderland was shortlisted in Healthwatch England's national Network Awards - celebrating local branches of Healthwatch across the UK that have gone the extra mile to ensure health and social care services meet everyone’s needs.
Although Healthwatch Sunderland didn't take home the crown, being shortlisted in the final eight branches of Healthwatch is a huge success!
You can see the new letters by accessing the Gov.uk website.
Following on from the successful campaign, Healthwatch Sunderland is asking you to share your 'breast ‘support’ and join in with #ItsBoobEasy campaign!
Sunderland Beacon of Light, will be lit pink for Healthwatch Sunderland's #ItsBoobEasy campaign.
Tara Johnson, added: “We are asking individuals and organisations to join in and spread the word of our #ItsBoobEasy campaign, so no one has to feel like Sharon did.
“You will be joining the Sunderland Beacon of Light in raising awareness, as the Beacon will be lit up in pink to highlight the importance of this campaign and easy read accessibility.
“From sharing her story with us, Sharon and our team have influenced change nationally and prevented people who need an easy read format from feeling isolated.”
The campaign will launch on Thursday 24 November - you can join in the #ItsBoobEasy campaign and share social media tiles and the hashtag #ItsBoobEasy, alongside the wording; 'If you need easy read letters and information, make sure you tell your doctor or nurse you need your mammogram invitations and any recall letters in easy read. #ItsBoobEasy'.