HUC provides Integrated Urgent Care Services to over two million people. We have extensive experience of identifying and understanding the needs of our patients, across a wide variety of geographical, demographical, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. We reach out and work with groups who may struggle to engage with the telephone-based nature of NHS 111 delivery, and work jointly to address the barriers they face and make the service equally accessible to all.

Supporting patients and the public to inform and influence the provision of local services

As a Social Enterprise, our ‘membership’ is drawn from all parts of the community. This enables us to be uniquely positioned to engage with all communities.

We use regular patient, carer, professional and stakeholder communication, engagement and feedback to continue delivering a patient centred approach that traverses organisational boundaries, enabling seamless patient care. We have invited patients into our call centres, meeting staff and making their own observations. This approach has generated patient advocates who are knowledgeable about the service and tell others.

HUC strives for a patient centred approach throughout their services
HUC strives for a patient centred approach throughout their services

Through delivering services across demographically diverse counties, we are aware of language and cultural barriers and how to address them. We are experienced in providing healthcare services to communities where English is not their first spoken language. We provide interpretation services across all of our services, either telephone-based or in our Primary Care Centres. Health Advisors will identify a patient’s interpretation needs when they capture demographic data. We then contact Language Line and have a three-way conference phone call, ensuring the caller can give a true account of symptoms. If directly booking patients into another service, any language requirement is clearly flagged on the referral. We proactively recruit staff to reflect local communities and demographics of the population. 

We recognise the role of Healthwatch as an independent consumer champion for patients. Healthwatch provides us with information about key aspects of their work that presents opportunities for us to engage with vulnerable communities for example, Gypsy, Romany and Traveller communities.

Making services accessible and convenient for all

Ensuring equality of access to our services is a priority and all local residents and visitors understand how to access urgent care, we in conjunction with the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and national policy, implement an ongoing communication, engagement and marketing plan. This provides key messages about how to access urgent healthcare advice, promoting the use of 111 as the ‘front door’ to the NHS when it is felt the patient’s condition is urgent.

We will do this by:
  • Effective media campaigns
  • Regular engagement meetings
  • Expansion of HUC Stakeholder Council to incorporate voluntary and patient groups

Patients with Sensory Impairments

We give staff extra time to complete assessments and include sensory impairment as inclusion criteria for home visits, if a telephone assessment or access to a primary care centre poses challenges or barriers to accessing the service. At the end of every assessment, the staff member will highlight to the appropriate onward referral service if any adjustments are required.

We provide Next Generation Text Services for those who are unable to use a standard telephone. Through engagement with Healthwatch Hertfordshire, we became aware of the difficulties people who are hard of hearing had with accessing NHS 111 services, and subsequently developed links with the charity Signhealth, lobbied NHSE over access issues, directly leading to the British Sign Language video relay pilot and subsequently the launch of a tablet/smart-phone version of the service.

Patients with known Mental Health problems

Staff are trained to recognise Mental Health problems, and have regular Dementia training. To gain a more in-depth understanding, they have visited a local Mental Health service, allowing them to show empathy whilst remaining professional at all times. For those patients who require further support, the Health Advisors will warm transfer to the MCAS, those with an SPN will be re-directed automatically to the specialist.

Patients with acute Mental Health problems

In line with the Mental Health Concordat for Crisis, we treat a mental health emergency in the same way as we treat a physical health emergency, and respond to both to prevent deterioration and manage the crisis. We are developing 24/7 pathways to Mental Health specialists within our MCAS model.

Useful links for patients with Mental Health problems

Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust is committed to providing health and social care for people with mental ill health. The trust also offers a range of telephone services.

NHS Choices has information about mental health problems generally on their Moodzone page as well as information for young people experiencing mental health issues.

Crisis offer a range of telephone support services for those in need of guidance.