North East Connected

Local Views from Local People Improve Health Services


As part of an independent network of 152 Healthwatch’s, the Healthwatch Newcastle team provides community engagement, research, evaluation, and assessment services within the fields of health, wellbeing, and social care. They also provide training and skills development for their teams of volunteers and the wider community. Traditionally office based, the team has made a conscious decision to reach out to the people who they serve out in the community.

Hannah Farr, Healthwatch Newcastle Lead Officer, explained why the team were going more community-based with an accessible approach to gathering vital information.

“We were aware that being office based wasn’t the best way to communicate with people who want to share their experiences and thoughts on health and social care in the City. The office can create a barrier for some people, and we want to be inclusive to all. We’ve teamed up with several community locations where we know people feel safe and secure visiting, The idea is that we will become a regular visitor and engage with the public ensuring their voices and needs are heard.”

To seamlessly facilitate the transition, the team have conducted a comprehensive mapping exercise, dividing Newcastle into a number of locality areas. Using a Google map tool, they have 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. The outreach team are targeting underserved groups such as women, young people, refugees, and asylum seekers.

“We’ve tried to make sure the venues that we have picked are accessible and that there are no physical barriers to stop any member of the public from accessing our service. It’s a reciprocal approach too as we can 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,” said Hannah.

The team recently trailed the concept in Eldon Square and were delighted with the response from the public.

“We loved talking to everyone and building up rapport with shoppers. Many completed surveys which will help us to identify any improvements needed to local health care services. The trial was encouraging and as a result we are basing ourselves in locations across Newcastle.”

Yvonne Probert, CEO of Tell Us North (CIC) who oversees Healthwatch operations said: “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. We encourage everyone to come along to a drop-in and share your views of health and social care.”

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