This week at the Generate Voices Forum we were joined by Delia Fitzsimmons from Healthwatch Wandsworth. Delia came to talk to Generate Voices member’s about their experiences in accessing healthcare services during the Covid-19 pandemic. Healthwatch Wandsworth is an independent organisation. It works to champion the needs of people in Wandsworth in regard to accessing health and social care. At Healthwatch Wandsworth their aim is to make sure that those running services put people at the heart of care. Delia joined our Generate Voices meeting to hear about what members had to say about what effect the lockdown has had on their mental and physical well-being.
The meeting started with a question: what effect has the lockdown had on your physical health and well-being? B shared how he struggled not having his normal routine, which was massively disrupted by the lockdown. A couple members agreed that it was difficult to mentally get used to a change of structure and daily routine. Another also shared how she lost close family and friends to Covid-19 which also made it an incredibly difficult period for her. Whilst she was offered some support through the grievance process, she felt that more could have been done.
Another member added that lockdown was difficult as there were many mixed messages surrounding the rules, for example to wear a mask or not wear a mask. She also said that there was limited information surrounding how to apply for an exemption badge, for those who are unable to wear a mask. All these factors made added more stress and made lockdown even more difficult.
When Delia asked about the group’s experience with getting the vaccine, members had mixed responses. Most members said how it was stressful waiting for people with learning disabilities to be prioritized for the vaccine. The group explained how it was confusing waiting to receive an invitation for the vaccine. Whilst most Generate Voices members were all offered the vaccine through a formal letter, our youngest members had different experiences. Both explained how they had to get their parents to reach out to the doctors personally to ask for the vaccine, even though both were in vulnerable positions. They continued that they felt there were mixed messages from staff at the doctors surgery. On different occasions some said that they were entitled whilst others said they were not. This confusion made them feel even more stressed and anxious about getting the vaccine.
One of our younger members said how she felt excluding some young people with learning disabilities from being prioritized was a serious problem. She explained how she lives with just her mum and, if something were to happen to her mum, she would not be able to live alone. Therefore, she felt that her and her mum should have been prioritized for the vaccine due to her family situation. She felt the government neglected to think of prioritizing young people who live in a two-person household. She said how she has friends in the same situation as her, who have still not been offered the vaccine, which she believes is wrong.
Next, Delia asked where people found information on Covid-19 that was useful. One member shared how he found most of the information through Generate’s services, in particular through Social Opportunity activities. He continued that he found it “difficult to understand some of the things that people say”. Delia asked members whether they thought they received enough information during the Covid-19 pandemic. Four Generate Voices members said no; they didn’t believe they received enough information. Another added that there was not enough focus on people with learning disabilities during Covid-19. He said, “Until the nation-wide campaigns about prioritizing the vaccine, there was nothing specific mentioned about people with learning disabilities even though they are more at risk”.
Finally, Delia asked, why is important that we talk about well-being in lockdown? One member said how it’s important to stay healthy, strong and to beat the virus. More importantly, he added that well-being equals to happiness. In order to properly support all people in crisis or pandemics, it is important to fully understand their needs.
By joining us at the Generate Voices Forum, Delia and Healthwatch Wandsworth will use the group’s experiences in Covid-19 to work to improve healthcare services in Wandsworth. The experience of everyone in Covid-19 and the lockdown matters. The experiences of Generate Voices members are essential to ensure future health services in Wandsworth are catered to the needs of all people.
If you want to share your experiences of accessing healthcare during the pandemic with Healthwatch Wandsworth, please contact Delia at: