Health chiefs listen to the concerns of young people thanks to local Healthwatch project
Young people across East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen have told health and care chiefs of their concerns for health and wellbeing following a survey of over 800 young people.
Healthwatch Lancashire and Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen were commissioned by East Lancashire CCG as part of the Pennine Lancashire Transformation Programme (which included both Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire CCG) to gather the views and experiences of children and young people aged 8 to 25 across Pennine Lancashire as part of the engagement carried out to develop the draft Pennine Plan for health and care in the area.
The project enabled both Healthwatch Lancashire and Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen to identify the key issues for children and young people living in Pennine Lancashire, allowing them to deliver targeted projects on specific trends to further understand the views and experiences of participants, which will allow them to have greater influence on the development and provision of local health and care services.
Sheralee Turner-Birchall, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Lancashire, said: “This has been a great collaboration, generating some insightful findings that I hope are not only listened to, but acted upon. Members from Amplify and both Healthwatch organisations gave a presentation to NHS East Lancashire CCG Governing Body at Accrington and Rossendale College before Christmas.
“I was heartened by how seriously the CCG considered the findings of the survey and it was clear that the CCG and its partners are keen to improve the health and wellbeing of children and young people. As a Healthwatch it is our role to ensure that the voice of people is heard and acted upon and we will be monitoring the progress of the CCG and its partners in the Pennine Lancashire area to ensure that they do act on these findings.”
Self-Harming was the top issue amongst children and young people in Pennine Lancashire, with 40.31% of participants responding. This was closely followed by experiencing a mental health condition, with40.19% of participants responding. Those identifying as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ) found concerns about their sexuality as an issue with 46.9% identifying this as an issue. Twenty percent of participants worried about their health several days in the last two weeks, with 5.5% worrying about their own health every day.
Friends and Socialising (26.8%), closely followed by family (26.6%) were the main things that enabled children and young people to stay happy, healthy and feeling good. However, family problems (9.7%) and bullying (9.7%) were the main things that made it difficult for children and young people to stay happy, healthy and feeling good.
Children and young people said more activities for young people (28.5%) and mental health support (20.3%) would allow them to thrive.
Sir Bill Taylor, Chair of Blackburn with Darwen Healthwatch said: “Healthwatch BwD Amplify Champions were responsible for designing a questionnaire that could be used across Pennine Lancashire to gather the views and experiences of children and young people. Amplify Champions and staff from both Healthwatch BwD and staff from Healthwatch Lancashire gathered the views and experiences of children and young people in a range of public places across Pennine Lancashire, including the cinema, fast food establishments, youth clubs and parks.
“Amplify is Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen’s Young Person’s Project, designed and delivered by young people to allow them to share their views and experiences on the things that keep them happy, healthy and feeling good in order to shape local health and social care provision.
“It is testament to the enthusiasm and commitment of the young people involved in this project that they captured the views of over 800 children and young people aged 8 to 25 across Blackburn with Darwen and East Lancashire. I am really proud of them. The NHS tends to spend large proportions of money on children & young people and then older folks.
“We should talk with, not at, young people, listen to them & implement what they have said. They see things differently, use different language & perceive shorter term time scales. We ignore these factors at our peril.”
The young people recommended that health and care commissioners respond to the findings of the report, and also recommended a second phase of engagement to further explore key themes.
The full report ‘The views and experiences of children and young people in Pennine Lancashire’ can be read and downloaded online at: https://healthwatchlancashire.co.uk/reports/reports/ under the ‘Healthwatch Project Reports’ tab.
Dr Phil Huxley, local GP and Chair of NHS East Lancashire said: “At our most recent public meeting of the CCG we were honoured to receive a presentation about this survey from the young people who ran it. The Governing Body of NHS East Lancashire take these findings very seriously and we will produce an action plan to respond to these findings. We are seeking peoples’ views on the draft Pennine Plan which is our blueprint for health and care in the future. In this plan we have put a strong and very real focus on improving the health and wellbeing of children and young people. We are keen to hear what people have to say about the draft pennine plan and it can be accessed, along with a survey at: http://togetherahealthierfuture.org.uk/pennine-plan/
“But there is also much more we can do so I am asking commissioners of children and young people’s services to come back to the Governing Body, and show that they have acted on the very real concerns of children and young people in our area”
Professor Dominic Harrison, Director of Public Health, Blackburn with Darwen Council said: “Our draft Pennine Plan includes very specific proposals for babies, toddlers and children and young people. Giving every child the best start in life is our highest priority and provides the biggest opportunity for future improvement of health and wellbeing in Pennine Lancashire. We will improve the life chances for our children by enabling them to grow into healthy and resilient adults. Evidence shows that the earlier in life we invest in children, the greater the financial return – for every £1 spent on early years’ education, £7 has to be spent to have the same impact in adolescence.
“To give our children the best start in life we want to join up health and care provision through the Healthy Child Programme to have a positive impact on a wide range of health, education and social care outcomes for children, young people and their families. This will be achieved by expanding programmes that are known to be cost effective and successful and community capacity building across a range of settings, such as children’s centres, health centres and GP practices.”
Other proposed developments geared towards improving the health and wellbeing of children and young people include delivering activities such as:
- Physical activity in education settings, such as “mile a day”
- Emotional health, wellbeing and resilience for example ‘Youth Mental Health First Aid’ training
- Life skills such as cooking, financial literacy, citizenship, skills for employment
- Dental health, such as ‘smile4health’, toothbrush/paste distribution and fluoride varnish.
A public health study in 1998 identified a range of stressful or traumatic experiences that children can be exposed to whilst growing up, collectively termed Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). These ten ACEs range from direct harm to a child, that is physical, verbal and/or sexual abuse and, physical or emotional neglect, to those that affect the environment in which a child grows up, including parental separation, domestic abuse, mental illness, alcohol abuse, drug abuse or incarceration.
Pennine Lancashire aims to become the UKs first ‘ACE Informed area’ by developing strategies for raising awareness and understanding of ACEs, and resilience creating environments for people to share and support each other in addressing their own experiences of ACEs and creating an ACE informed workforce including training for those in education; health and social care; criminal justice and the voluntary, community and faith sector.