A champion of social care and health services is expanding to ensure consistency and best practice in Gateshead.

Healthwatch Newcastle is joining forces with Healthwatch Gateshead to create a more streamlined organisation, focused on improving services on both sides of the Tyne.

Chief Executive of Healthwatch Newcastle, Steph Edusei from New Hartley, is a busy mum who has held a number of key professional roles within the health sector over the past 21 years including Assistant Director of Operations with North East Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust and Directorate Manager at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Now however, her priority is to provide an even better service, making recommendations for improvements to health and social care while ensuring that both Healthwatch organisations maintain their independence.

Healthwatch Newcastle and Healthwatch Gateshead cover all publicly-funded health and social care services for both adults and children. Firstly, they work hard to champion the rights of those using the social care and health systems and secondly act as a watchdog to ensure that social care and health systems correctly engage with the public. The joint organisation has no plans to move their central Gateshead offices or their Newcastle office in Broadacre House, Market Street.

“Many of the people living in Gateshead use health facilities (particularly hospitals) in Newcastle so in that respect, we already have common ground to work on” said Steph.

“Social engagement is so important in Healthwatch and we need to continue to be excellent communicators with the public, social care users and those using health facilities in both Newcastle and Gateshead. Without our teams engaging with the public, our data is worthless and change becomes hard to achieve. We already have a good working model but we can improve by taking the best practice from both Healthwatch and applying this to everything we do.”

One of Steph’s first roles is to get the right people in place to act as Committee members.

“This is a great opportunity to use both the expertise we already have and to find other people who have the right expertise. This could be someone who has worked in the social care and health sectors, someone who has had personal experience as a patient or carer or someone with a keen interest in using people’s views to improve services. From my perspective, I also need us to be accountable and ensure that we get the very best people available to help lead Healthwatch Newcastle and Healthwatch Gateshead into the future.”

Steph is looking forward to the coming together of the two Healthwatch and is committed to ensuring that she delivers an important voice for those people receiving treatment, being looked after by social care or simply anyone with something to say about services on either side of the Tyne.

“I want to make sure Newcastle and Gateshead are the best places in the UK to receive care and treatment and this new partnership between the local Healthwatch will go a long way towards supporting that.”