Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 09.20.36An important survey is being carried out by volunteers on behalf of Healthwatch Newcastle to help shape the way that appointments are made for GP consultations.

One volunteer however has had to overcome a number of difficulties when interviewing the public, as Hazel Hyland from Kenton has been blind from birth.

Hazel (38) hasn’t let her disability stop her from leading an active and fulfilling life. As well as being a busy mum with a teenage daughter, she is a volunteer for the RNIB Guide Dogs for the Blind and is a member of Newcastle Society for Blind People.

Her latest project is with Healthwatch Newcastle, the independent champion for users of social care and health services in the city. Hazel is carrying out public surveys to discover people’s preferences when booking and attending a GP appointment.

The survey looks at a range of options available such as having a specific appointment time but not necessarily being able to see the doctor of your choice as opposed to seeing your own doctor but possibly having to wait longer to see them.

The survey is now taking place all across Newcastle using tried and tested research methodology. The results will be collated by Northumbria University using state of the art collation software.

Surveys are being done in supermarkets, libraries, out on the street and in community centres. As Hazel is unable to see prospective interviewees, she uses her heightened sense of hearing to identify them.

“I listen for tell tale signs such as people talking, high heel shoes clicking and walking sticks tapping. I then ask them to fill in a short form and that’s all there is to it. Volunteering for Healthwatch Newcastle is interesting and gets me talking to all sorts of people in the community that I wouldn’t normally engage with,” said Hazel.

Champion Support Worker, Rachel Head, has a lot of praise for the volunteers including Hazel.

“Volunteers bring a different perspective to the project as it’s not something they do everyday. It’s good to work with people who have different ideas and ways of doing things especially when you see someone like Hazel, it’s very inspirational.”

The results of the survey will be presented as a model for good practice and it is hoped that the findings will be used to develop GP services throughout Newcastle. 

The survey is also available online via the Healthwatch Newcastle website (www.healthwatchnewcastle.org.uk) and the team will be in the following locations throughout October:

Friday 9 October, 2-4 pm, East End Pool

Wednesday 14 October, Trinity Church, Gosforth

Friday 16 October,  2-4 pm, Newcastle Grainger Market

Tuesday 27 October, 12-2 pm, Gosforth Shopping Centre

Thursday 29 October, 11 am – 1 pm, St Martin’s Centre, Walker

Anyone wanting to know more about volunteering to be a researcher can contact Rachel at Healthwatch Newcastle on 0191 338 5723 or rachel@healthwatchnewcastle.org.uk