22 July 2021
Welcome to your fortnightly e-Bulletin from the Healthwatch Milton Keynes team.
Hello from our CEO
It’s been a week of many changes in Milton Keynes, and across the whole of the UK, as so-called ‘Freedom Day’ came on Monday 19 July. Restrictions are now easing in many situations, but face masks in all healthcare settings are staying. So, if you have a hospital or GP appointment, are visiting a friend or relative in a care home or hospital, going to the dentist or visiting your local pharmacy, you’ll need to continue wearing a mask (unless you’re exempt, of course) and so will all healthcare staff.
But what if you can’t actually get to see your GP or dentist? What then? It’s a growing problem that we know is affecting so many of you right now. When we’re feeling unwell, have niggling health concerns, suffering toothache, or maybe need some healthcare advice, we’re often at our most vulnerable. We have all been in that situation, and doctors and dentists are the people we turn to as a first port of call. We receive emails and calls every day from people in MK who are facing enormous struggles trying to access the healthcare they need. It’s particularly acute for dentistry.
We’re constantly taking your feedback to NHS leaders and decision makers so they are clear about the severity of these access issues. That’s why we’re partnering with MK GP Federation for our next Speak Out to Help Out event: an online mediated forum, so that both patients and GPs can share their experiences and everyone can better understand the pressures and frustrations on both sides. Working together, we can influence change and create improvements for our community.
And just one last note: I’d like to thank everyone who came along to our (second) virtual AGM yesterday. It was wonderful to see many faces – let’s hope the next one happens in person!
Vaccination stats: how are we doing in MK?
Across Bedford, Luton and Milton Keynes we have vaccinated more than 628,000 of the local population with their first vaccination.
456,000 have received a second dose bringing the cumulative total to well over 1.085 million.
Nationally, over 87.4 per cent of the population have now received their first dose of the COVID vaccine. Over 68 million doses have been delivered in total, with over 29.5 million second doses, meaning that two thirds of the adult population have now been fully vaccinated.
If you’re trying to book a vaccine and there are no available appointments locally, KEEP CHECKING! New dates/venues/times are released daily.
The Pfizer and AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines are highly effective against the Delta variant after two doses, a Public Health England study has found.
Two jabs of either vaccine give a similar level of protection against symptomatic disease from the Delta variant as they do for the Alpha one. The findings also show the vaccines are likely to be even more effective at preventing hospital admission and deaths.
COVID restrictions: what has changed, as of 19 July?
Most legal restrictions to control COVID-19 have been lifted. Here’s what it all means:
You do not need to stay 2 metres apart from people you do not live with. There are also no limits on the number of people you can meet.
Limit the close contact you have with those you do not usually live with, and increase close contact gradually. This includes minimising the number, proximity and duration of social contacts.
Meet outdoors where possible and let fresh air into homes or other enclosed spaces.
The Government is no longer instructing people to work from home if they can. However, they expect and recommend ‘a gradual return over the summer’.
The requirement to wear face coverings in law has been lifted. However, ‘the Government expects and recommends that people wear face coverings in crowded areas such as public transport.
There are no longer limits on the number of people who can attend weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and other life events (including receptions and celebrations). There is no requirement for table service at life events, or restrictions on singing or dancing. You should follow guidance for weddings and funerals to reduce risk and protect yourself and others.
There are no longer restrictions on group sizes for attending communal worship. COVID-19 has not gone away, so it’s important to remember the actions you can take to keep yourself and others safe.
Image credit: Luke Jones, Unsplash
Facemasks will remain in healthcare settings
If you’re visiting Milton Keynes Hospital (or any others across the UK), GP practices, dental practices, optometrists and pharmacies, then face mask rules are still in place. This applies to NHS staff, patients and visitors. NHS visitor guidance will stay in place across all health services including to ensure patients and staff are protected. You’ll also be expected to continue to follow social distancing rules when visiting any care setting.
Every day we’re hearing from people in MK who are finding it impossible to get an appointment with an NHS dentist. Many people are being left anxious, in pain or discomfort, because they cannot get the dentist care that the urgently need. Both routine and emergency care is being affected.
As a result of COVID, dentists are not able to see as many patients as normal due to additional cleaning and sanitation requirements. They are having to prioritise urgent and emergency dental work, leaving many people to suffer. Some dentists are now starting to provide routine check ups, but waiting lists are long.
We’ve put together some advice on where to look for local available dentists, what to do in a dental emergency, and how to contact the NHS to make a complaint about the lack of NHS dentists.
WATCH THIS SPACE…We are also working hard to bring you a Speak Out to Help Out online discussion about this issue. We will share details as soon as we can.
NHS data sharing plans have been scrapped
The Government has indefinitely halted its GP data sharing scheme, with a minister admitting mistakes in the way the project has been run. In a letter to GPs, the Government said it was dropping the previous target date (1 September) to launch significantly increased patient data collections by NHS Digital from GPs. The move is a significant shift in policy, as they had initially hoped to launch the GP data sharing scheme by the end of June. The scheme had attracted a lot of controversy from campaigners — both inside and outside the NHS. Concerns were raised about privacy and a lack of communication with patients. In her letter to GPs, health minister Jo Churchill said the government has “heard [their] concerns loud and clear” and will “continue to listen”.
Image credit: Alexandr Povolny, Unsplash
Get ready for a Summer of Play!
Milton Keynes Council has created more than 27,000 fully funded activity sessions this August. A huge range of activities have been organised including cookery, bush-craft, film-making, performing arts, football, African drums and laser tag. The full Summer of Play programme, developed and funded by Milton Keynes Council, is now available to view online.
To book a session, simply browse the online programme and contact providers directly to make a booking. Most of the activities take place within 4 hour sessions and include nutritious, healthy meals unless stated on the programme. The Council hopes that its Summer of Play will help children and young people to be more active during the school holidays whilst taking part in safe, engaging and enriching activities.
Image credit: MKUH
MKUH opens new neonatal transitional unit
This week, Milton Keynes University Hospital have opened a brand new Neonatal Transitional Care Unit as part of a continued programme of work to improve patient experience and safety. This development is great news for families, as new mums and their babies can now stay together when their little one needs additional care. Thanks to the new unit, both can get the support they need from a specially trained multi-disciplinary team without having to be separated.
We loved hearing about one of the first patients to make use of the new facility: little Ollie (pictured) was born at the Hospital at just 34 weeks old. Ollie is now 36 weeks and supported alongside his Mum and Dad. We’re pleased to report he’s making fantastic progress under the care of the MKUH neonatal team.
If you have any questions about the new facility, please contact the unit directly on 01908 996 398 / 996 399.
MKUH charity donations fund three state-of-the-art incubators
Thanks to donations and support from the local community, triplets born at Milton Keynes University Hospital have been the first tiny patients to make use of three new state-of-the-art incubators. Following a fundraising appeal led by Milton Keynes Hospital Charity in September last year, funds were raised for the new ‘BabyLeo’ incubators, which are now in use on the Neonatal Unit. The BabyLeos, which cost £25,000 each, are described as the ‘Rolls Royce’ of incubators and offer the latest in neonatal technology. Find out more.
Eating well with diabetes.
Diabetes-UK have updated their Enjoy Food guide. If you’re looking for advice or foodie inspiration, it’s a handy guide for anyone newly-diagnosed with diabetes, and a useful update/refresher for anyone living with diabetes or their carers. The guide is available to download or order for free from the Diabetes-UK online shop.
Image credit: Georg Arthur Pflueger, Unsplash
Enhanced support for D/deaf patients
There’s a new service for D/deaf patients who are trying to contact their GP, dentist, optician or pharmacy in MK. It’s for profoundly sensory impaired patients who require additional support when contacting healthcare services. Carers can also contact on behalf of patients. It’s designed for patients who can only communicate using British Sign Language and other non-spoken languages.
How can I access the service?
Members of the D/deaf community are able to text, call, email, fax and video call to access confidential support for their primary care needs, such as arranging appointments, attending appointments and post appointment needs. All interpreters are NRCPD fully registered.
You’ve told us that getting an appointment to see your local GP is getting more and more difficult – sometimes, it’s impossible. We’ve heard that both phone and face-to-face appointments are hard to come by. We know you feel frustrated, forgotten, like the system is working against you. We’ve teamed up with the MK GP Federation for a mediated online discussion, to share patient experiences, better understand the pressures that GPs are under, and come up with genuine solutions. To change the situation for everyone, we need your feedback and patient stories. So please join us.
This event will be moderated to ensure the conversation is productive, non-confrontational, respectful, and solutions-driven.
Do you use the CAMHS service in Milton Keynes? Your feedback is needed to help develop and improve the service. Feedback events are happening to gather people’s experiences and suggestions. The first few sessions held last week were really successful with young people and parents/carers getting involved. Common themes that were raised included a need for consistent care/treatment, the need for better / improved communication, greater compassion and listening, a safe and comfortable space for parents, the need for outdoor space, and a welcome pack. The next dates and times are:
5 – 6pm – for young people
6 – 7pm – for parents(s)/carer(s)
Fortnightly workshops will follow every other Thursday.
If you’d like to get involved, contact Niki Scott on Nicola.email@example.com – 07896 303294 and she will provide the link to join the session.