Robert and his support with the dementia project
I signed up to volunteer for Healthwatch Surrey during the Covid-19 lockdown. My working life revolved around making and implementing policies for public services – particularly the health service. So I knew how the NHS worked. I had also experienced the reality of being a day-to-day user of health and social care services as a carer for my wife who, in 2014, was diagnosed with a rare form of an early onset dementia.
My role in Healthwatch is to be a Community Influencer – someone who works as part of a team to understand the views and concerns of local people and then seeks to influence decision makers and managers to improve the way local health and social care services are run.
In 2021 Healthwatch approached me to help with a project focused on dementia. I worked with their researcher and other volunteers to find out how well people with dementia and their carers were supported in the months and years after receiving a diagnosis. We conducted a series of in-depth interviews, compiled a hard-hitting report and took our findings to the body that co-ordinates dementia care across Surrey. It had recognised the need to improve dementia care and used our report to inform their plans.
There is still a long way to go before we have the quality of support that individuals and families need and deserve, but on behalf of Healthwatch I am now part of the body that will be monitoring the implementation of Surrey’s dementia care plan. I will be chivvying them to ensure that the improvements promised actually materialise!