People living across Swindon, Wiltshire, Bath and North East Somerset are being encouraged to make their voices on healthcare heard.
The Our Health Our Future Panel seeks views and opinions people have on health and care in their local areas.
Managed by the clinical commissioning group of Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire, the panel is a virtual arena in which people of all ages and backgrounds are invited to give honest, constructive feedback on a range of health and care related topics through regular surveys and focus groups.
Almost 400 of the 800 current members took part in the most recent survey, which sought to gauge local feeling regarding the Coronavirus outbreak, and it is hoped the panel will reach the milestone of 1,000 members before the next survey later this month.
Gill May, the CCG's Director of Nursing and Quality, said: “It’s a privilege to be able to plan health and care for our region, but to do it effectively we need to hear from, as well as understand the needs of, the people at the heart of our communities.
“Although we have detailed statistics about ages, backgrounds and current medical conditions, which give us a great starting point in knowing what services are needed and where, what is harder to come by is that more anecdotal information which can support us to empower people to live healthy, independent lives.
“The Our Health Our Future panel is a fantastic way for us to connect with our local communities and, while it’s not our only method of engagement, the fact it’s a digital platform means current social distancing rules can’t put a stop to these important conversations.”
Earlier in the year, at the peak of the coronavirus outbreak, the current panellists took part in a survey which asked how the pandemic had affected their overall health and wellbeing.
While 90 per cent of respondents said they felt healthy, about a third admitted to feeling lonely during the initial lockdown period.
Two thirds of people said that, given the current circumstances, they would be happy to replace a face-to-face consultation with one over the phone or by videocall.
However, a significant number said virtual appointments would be less appropriate when discussing mental health concerns.
The survey highlighted that the lockdown had not stopped people from accessing routine care, with 42 percent saying they had recently used or tried to use a health or care service.
About one in 10 said they had found it difficult to access the care they needed during the lockdown.
Places on the Our Health Our Future Panel are still available, and anyone wishing to join is encouraged to visit www.junglegreenmrc.co.uk/panel for details of how to do so.