Guest blog: Rhiannon Norfolk talks about “This is me”; Healthwatch Wiltshire’s Arts and Health project

Live music and cake: different tools in health and social care research. Photo © Healthwatch Wiltshire

Live music and cake: different tools in health and social care research.
Photo © Healthwatch Wiltshire

Working with artists was a new experience for Healthwatch Wiltshire.

We are investigating the patient and carer experience of Wiltshire’s ‘Better Care Plan’, which aims to join up health and social care for older people in the county. We were looking to challenge commissioners and providers of health and social care services in a more immediate manner than our usual reports, to highlight the experiences of people using health and social care. We made a bid to the Wiltshire Council Arts and Health Innovation Fund and were chosen by the audience at the 2014 Arts and Health Conference to win the grant.

Working in partnership with the Wiltshire and Swindon Users’ Network, we put out a call for submissions to deliver the project. We had 11 high quality applications, and a panel involving service users selected the application from Elevate, part of the ArtCare team from Salisbury Hospital.

They used vintage tea parties, with live music and tea and cake served on vintage china to create an atmosphere where people felt comfortable to share their experiences of using health and social care. The power of the arts, of music and singing, helped break down any reluctance to talk about their experiences. This was an extension of Elevate’s popular ward tea parties at Salisbury Hospital, where “everything stops for tea”.

A tea party in action. Photo © Elevate

A tea party in action.
Photo © Elevate

Tea parties took place in community groups and in isolated peoples’ homes. The parties included games, singing and refreshments as well as discussing the experiences of using health and social care.

The parties also brought some fun to isolated people. Participants really enjoyed the experience of ‘being made to feel special’ with music and cake, presented on beautiful china. This was a very different experience of participating in research, and was probably far more enjoyable than the usual interviews we do at Healthwatch Wiltshire!

With participants’ permissions, their experiences were recorded on paper, audio recordings and on video. Excerpts from the parties were quoted on Twitter, and can be found at https://twitter.com/hwwteaparties

Live music was particularly popular. Photo © Elevate

Live music was particularly popular.
Photo © Elevate

There were six main themes that came out of all the conversations with older people and their unpaid carers:

  • People who have had a stay in hospital and then come home said that often the communication between different services isn’t good enough. This can result in things not happening as promised and confusion.
  • Looking after a relative, spouse, or friend is rewarding but tough work. Unpaid carers provide a hugely valuable service but they need support to carry on with their role.
  • People who fund their own social care can feel ignored and struggle to get the information and support they need to organise and pay for their own care.
  • People who use care at home (domiciliary care) want it to be ‘person centred’. Ideally that means having the same staff coming to care for them and coming at set times which suit the person. Good communication with the Care Agency office is crucial.
  • Transport is a big issue in parts of rural Wiltshire. Getting to hospital and back home can be costly and difficult.
  • Both reliable social connections and the opportunity to participate in meaningful activities are important for older people.

Download the This is me report

A film based on the experiences shared has also been created. This will be shared with commissioners and providers of health and social care services, and is accessible to everyone through http://www.healthwatchwiltshire.co.uk/this-is-me. We will also use the information gathered to continue to monitor the services provided to people in the county.

Working with Elevate and their creative techniques has helped us in a number of ways. It has

  • encouraged more people to take part in research, by making it enjoyable
  • allowed for people’s voices to be heard through their own words, with quotes on twitter and on film
  • created something different to take to commissioners and providers, which we believe will have a great impact

We would like to thank all the participants, the community groups who hosted parties (Downton Good Companions, Alzheimers Support, Carer Support Wiltshire, Till Valley Day Centre, Shrewton, Volunteers from Healthwatch Wiltshire and the Wiltshire and Swindon Users Network, The Elevate team, Wiltshire Heights Care Home, Bradford on Avon and the Wiltshire Council Arts and Health Innovation Fund, without which we would not have been able to undertake this project.

Healthwatch Wiltshire would consider using creative methods of engaging the community in our future work, and would recommend that other organisations wanting to engage with older people should consider this too.

Rhiannon Norfolk, Volunteer and Engagement Officer at Healthwatch Wiltshire.

Contact us on 01225 434218 or info@healthwatchwiltshire.co.uk

3 thoughts on “Guest blog: Rhiannon Norfolk talks about “This is me”; Healthwatch Wiltshire’s Arts and Health project

  1. Suggest you include all the Wiltshire Senior Forums in your database they are the grassroots older peoples group run by older people for older people. Melksham Seniors Film Club now has a membership of 500 + ( over 55’s)

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