Healthwatch Kingston has published its report (https://bit.ly/3waFzU3HWKingstonAR2020-
21) on community engagement for 2020/21 which shows incontrovertible evidence of the
pandemic’s impact on people’s wellbeing across the borough.
The charity, Kingston’s independent champion for people who use health and social care
services, has recorded a 100% year on year increase in its engagement activities with
people. Over 18,000 experiences, views and concerns were shared on a range of issues and
over 25,000 were assisted with health and social care advice and information.
The consequences of the deep change in service levels for health and care forced by the
pandemic are serious and long term. Healthwatch Kingston is determined to ensure that
the views and experiences of the public are at the forefront of decisions taken for the
recovery of higher levels of service provision.
Dr Liz Meerabeau, Board Chair of Healthwatch Kingston, said, “We are grateful for the
ingenuity and fortitude shown by our colleagues in health and social care and the voluntary
sector who delivered services in such difficult times. And yet is all too apparent from our
report how much services had to change in response to the pandemic. I am pleased to say
that although patient and public involvement for these changes was virtually impossible
during the pandemic, we are now in a much stronger position, and we urge people who
avoided seeking advice on potentially serious symptoms to come forward”.
Alarmingly, an unprecedented jump in people seeking information through web search
direct from Healthwatch Kingston about mental health stands out, leaping 1,500% from 28
in 2019/20 to 426 in 2020/21. Similarly, the charity’s engagement with residents about
mental health leapt from 355 people sharing 1155 experiences, views, and concerns in
2019/20 to 1202 people sharing 5243 in 2020/21.
Stephen Bitti, Chief Executive Officer of Healthwatch Kingston, said, “The Healthwatch
Kingston report shows there is the threat of a growing silent mental health epidemic in
Kingston. We are really worried about the steep increase in residents seeking mental health
information and advice for mental health issues. People appear to feel safer to support
themselves online. Perhaps this is because residents are concerned about the continuing
stigma associated with mental ill-health, and a concerted effort is needed to increase the
support they need”.
Healthwatch Kingston expects the next year to be increasingly demanding as the borough
begins to recover from the impact of the pandemic. As a small charity, Healthwatch
Kingston relies upon the support of 81 volunteers, and is keen to welcome new volunteers
to help meet the challenges ahead. (What can I do as a volunteer? | Healthwatch Kingston).
These challenges include a close examination of residential care, its issues and needs.
Social Care remains the charity’s largest single topic of contact from people at 22%, and
Healthwatch Kingston will publish its findings in a new report due in August.
The full annual report, ‘Our work with you: Then and now’, 2020/21, is available here.
For further information about Healthwatch Kingston: www.healthwatchkingston.org.uk