New digital tool aims to drive maternity service equality in north east London

People using maternity services in north east London will be encouraged to play a greater role in their care with the rollout of a new digital tool designed to reduce health inequalities.      

CardMedic – an award-winning app and website system which translates common clinical conversations into different languages and formats – will be used to make care more personalised, improve communication with medical staff and boost safety.

As well as providing instant translation support in a number of different languages, CardMedic can be switched to British Sign Language and subtitles to help those who are deaf or have hearing problems, Easy Read for children or people with learning disabilities, and a ‘read aloud’ function for those with visual impairment or literacy issues.

It is also hoped this will enable maternity teams to use translation services in a more efficient way – allowing staff to act more quickly in urgent and emergency situations and overcome communication barriers at times when translators are not available.

The system has been commissioned by North East London Health and Care Partnership, the integrated care system (ICS) which covers Barking and Dagenham, the City of London, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.

North east London (NEL) ICS serves a diverse and fast-growing population, with more than 250 languages spoken and 53% of residents identifying as belonging to an ethnic minority, compared to 11% across England. It also has the highest birth rate in the country.

CardMedic will initially be used to encourage uptake in maternity services to address the healthcare inequalities that exist in parts of NEL and support work to improve perinatal pelvic health among those who need extra specialist care during or after pregnancy.

It follows national reports and audits suggesting poor outcomes – particularly for those from Black, Asian and mixed ethnic backgrounds – could have been different with more accessible information, stronger communication and greater cultural awareness.

Alice Compton, Senior Project Manager for Maternity Digital and Data Transformation and a digital midwife at NEL ICS, said:

“After speaking with maternity service users in north east London and understanding their experiences, it was clear that major gaps in service provision existed, with pregnant people and families often feeling they were not being listened to by staff.

“We know improvements need to be made to ensure pregnancy and birthing experiences are equitable, personalised and culturally appropriate for everyone, so by getting it right for those who experience the poorest outcomes, we’ll get it right for everyone.

“Deploying CardMedic will help us address this – giving service users the opportunity to play an active role in their care and reassuring clinicians that they are delivering the same care standards to all their patients, irrespective of their language or background.”

Dr Rachael Grimaldi, Co-Founder and Chief Executive, CardMedic, said:

“Everyone has the right to access healthcare, and communication barriers should never stand in people’s way. We’re proud to be a part of NEL ICS’s journey in reducing health inequalities, improving communication between healthcare staff and families, and making care more accessible for all.”

CardMedic will be available through hospital services in NEL ICS by late summer, including maternity units and maternity clinics run by Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, Barts Health NHS Trust and Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. The feedback gathered from maternity service users in north east London and their families has been used to produce a strategy and action plan which aims to improve equity and equality for pregnant women so services better meet the needs of those who use them. The full report can be read on the NHS North East London website here.

Help us shape end of life and palliative care across north east London

Care and support for people at the end of life needs to be delivered with compassion and care.

We are inviting those with experience of end of life or palliative care to give their views. This may be from their own personal experience, their experiences caring for a family member, or from a bereavement in the last year. This may include children, young people, as well as adults.

The aim is to further understand the things that help and the things that don’t, so that we can make services more sensitive to people’s differing needs, cultures and circumstances.

We appreciate that this may be a very difficult time but this input will help us put the right support in place.

Please complete our online survey which is open to anyone living in Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets, Newham, Waltham Forest, City of London and Hackney.

The online survey will close on 9 October. Paper based surveys are also available from the main libraries and Age UK offices in north east London.

Your views will be analysed anonymously. If you have any questions or you need the survey in a different format please email or call us on 020 8221 5500.

Proposed changes to ophthalmology surgery in North Central London

The NHS in North Central London (NCL) has developed proposals which will allow an estimated additional 3,000 eye (ophthalmology) surgery procedures to take place a year and reduce waits for sight saving surgery for some patients by up to four weeks.

You can read about the proposals on NCL’s website or download a short information leaflet.

Patients, the public, and partners are invited to share their views on the proposed changes and to feedback on how the NHS can provide the best possible experience for all patients, if implemented. This includes residents of North Central London and neighbouring areas who may choose to use hospital services in NCL. 

The NHS would particularly like to hear from anyone who has current or recent experience of eye surgery services, or anyone who may need these services in future, and their families and carers

Ways to feedback include:

The opportunity to give feedback runs until 16 October 2023.

New health and care centre taking shape in Ilford

A brand-new health and care centre is taking shape in the heart of Ilford.

Work started in January on the new centre – earmarked for two floors in Ilford Exchange shopping complex – and last week local NHS leaders were given a tour of the site, where construction teams are currently fitting out the clinical rooms, waiting area and reception.

Designed to act as a ‘one stop shop’ providing easy access to a range of healthcare, social care and community services in a single central location, the Ilford Exchange Health Centre will create extra capacity for GP services to meet growing local demand.

It will also offer blood testing and podiatry services, care for people with long term conditions, mental health support, children’s services and adult social care.

During a site visit, Zina Etheridge, Chief Executive Officer at NHS North East London (NHS NEL), and Matthew Trainer, Chief Executive at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust, were among NHS leaders updated on the project’s progress.

Also among the group was, Tracy Rubery, Director of Partnership, Impact and Delivery: Redbridge at NHS North East London, who said: “It was great to see that this fantastic new centre is now taking shape after months of planning and consultation with local people.

“Providing a range of health and care services in one place, right in the heart of the community, will make an enormous difference to so many people’s lives both now and in the future. It will be a huge asset to people in Ilford and the surrounding area.”

Last year, nearly 1,000 people took part in a public consultation on the centre with the vast majority backing the plans. The feedback received has been carefully considered by NHS North East London, NELFT NHS Foundation Trust and the London Borough of Redbridge, in close collaboration with other organisations which are all working together as part of the Redbridge Place-Based Partnership to ensure the new centre meets local needs.

Following a public vote in July, people in Redbridge chose Ilford Exchange Health Centre as their preferred name for the new centre from a shortlist of seven. Over the coming weeks, construction teams will continue to progress the works and the centre is expected to open in spring 2024.

Community groups receive £70,000 to help people with Long Covid in City of London and Hackney

Specialist NHS help is available for people with Long Covid in City and Hackney and across north east London.

Community groups across Hackney and the City of London have been awarded a total of £70,000 to help people living with Long Covid make a full and lasting recovery.

The funding is designed to empower local voluntary sector organisations to raise public awareness about Long Covid and its symptoms, signpost people to the support available to them and promote self-advocacy among the affected communities. One of the key aims is to encourage those who think they have lasting effects from COVID-19 to seek help from their GP and request referral to the specialist NHS post-Covid service. This will ensure they can be fully assessed and receive the necessary rehabilitation support.

A spokesperson for Hoxton Health, one of the seven groups to receive grants worth up to £10,000, said:

“We hope to use this funding to help older members of the community we work closely with be more aware of Long Covid as a condition.

“There are still many residents in City and Hackney who are suffering from the symptoms of Long Covid and are unaware of the support available.

“We hope to play our part in ensuring residents are better informed about the condition and know where to get the support they need.”

Dr Stephanie Coughlin, a local GP and Clinical Director, City & Hackney Place Based Partnership, said:

“If you have symptoms of Long Covid, you may find there is an impact on your day-to-day activities, including the ability to work, which directly affects your quality of life. Therefore, it’s important to get the support you need.

“My advice for anyone who suspects they may have Long Covid would be to go and see your GP so you can be checked out. They will do a range of tests to see if the symptoms can be explained by any other illnesses or conditions.

“If these can be ruled out, you may be referred to our local Long Covid services where you can get the right physical and mental health support.”

City and Hackney Covid Rehabilitation (CoRe) service has undertaken substantial work over the past year to understand the potential unmet need for specialist support among local people living with Long Covid, particularly within under-represented communities.

The service is keen to raise awareness of the condition, the impact of associated symptoms and the ways those affected most can access the support they need.

The funding, awarded to seven local organisations, was secured by the CoRe service and Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s fundraising department from NHS Charities Together to build community partnerships within the voluntary sector focusing on Long Covid.

Long Covid is defined by the National Institute of Clinical Excellence as “signs and symptoms that develop during or after an infection consistent with COVID-19 and continue for more than 12 weeks and are not explained by an alternative diagnosis”.

Symptoms can vary from person to person and may fluctuate over time. They include:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle ache
  • Difficulty concentrating/memory loss/confusion
  • Loss of smell or taste
  • Headache
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Worry/anxiety
  • Fast heart rate

Specialist NHS help is available for people with Long Covid in Hackney and the City of London. For more information on Long Covid and the support available locally, read or download the leaflet on the Homerton Hospital website.

North east London launches a new website to help patients manage their health and wellbeing

Patients in north east London will benefit from a new website that provides useful information and links to local and national resources to help them manage their own health and wellbeing. 

The new ‘Wait well, Stay well.’ website is designed to provide useful information and links to local and national resources to help people manage their own health and wellbeing while they wait for hospital treatment

Andrew Lappin, deputy head of elective recovery at NHS north east London said: “We recognised that the Covid-19 pandemic meant that some operations were postponed or delayed and waiting times increased.   While everyone in north east London and the wider NHS is working hard to reduce the backlog, we also wanted to think about other ways to support patients. 

“We have worked with colleagues across north east London and developed a new website aimed at people waiting for hospital treatment and includes local information to support them while they are waiting.”

The new website provides:

  • Answers to questions patients might have about their treatment
  • Guidance on current waiting times at local hospitals
  • Advice for staying well mentally and physically while people wait for an appointment
  • Help to prepare for the procedure itself
  • Links to other local and national resources

Morag Harvey, deputy director of planned care said: ‘This is an important resource for patients and residents and a good example of collaboration between NHS north east London and our  Trust partners.  We will continue to work together to ensure the information remains up to date and new resources are added.”

Please access the ‘Wait well, Stay well’ website for further information.

Hundreds receive health and lifestyle help at free drop-in clinics in Barking

More than 1,300 people in Barking have received help and support to lead happier and healthier lives, thanks to an initiative led by local GPs and their staff.  

Working closely with the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT), NHS North East London, developer Barking Riverside and community group Thames Life, Aurora Medcare GP practice is running series of drop-in outreach clinics to support the drive by local partners to tackle health inequalities. The first four clinics proved hugely successful, with GPs, paramedics, nurses, healthcare assistants, pharmacists, social prescribers, managers and community leaders all offering help and advice, while signposting residents to local organisations for extra support.

People are now being invited to the latest drop-in clinic at Thames Community Hub in Bastable Avenue, Barking, from 12pm to 6pm on Friday 28 July, which is free and open to all. Further monthly events are planned as follows:

  • Friday 11 August (12pm-6pm) – Thames Community Hub, Bastable Avenue
  • Friday 8 September (12pm-6pm) – Rivergate Centre, Minter Road, Barking
  • Friday 13 October (12pm-6pm) – Thames Community Hub, Bastable Avenue

The clinics were launched by GPs following discussions with local partners, including faith and community groups, about the best way to meet growing demand from patients with a range of issues – many of them non-medical or requiring additional support.

At the first four events, partners offered help and advice on issues including foodbanks, mental health support, children’s activities, debt and finances, cookery classes, walking groups and bereavement support. People with medical concerns were directed to Thames View Medical Practice, which is one of two local surgeries run by Aurora Medcare.

Dr Jagan Johna GP at Aurora Medcare and a board member at NHS North East London, said: “We’ve now held four drop-in clinics and it has been fantastic working with our local community and partners to provide help and advice to our residents. 

“A critical part of work to address health inequalities in Barking and Dagenham involves enabling our residents to be self-empowered and taking action to prevent illness, so these clinics have supported our efforts in helping them lead healthier, happier lives. 

“There are many different factors that affect a person’s health and wellbeing so we’ve had the opportunity to encourage people to liaise with local services and community groups, where this might help them manage their individual needs. This in turn allows me and my fellow GPs to focus on those patients who require our help with medical issues.

“The events have taken a great deal of planning and all of our practice staff have given up their time voluntarily, either on their day off or as overtime, which shows how committed our team members are and their willingness to give back to the local community.”

Aurora Medcare says the lessons learned from running the drop-in clinics, and the feedback received, is helping it shape the way it supports its patients and to better understand their needs, as well as boosting team spirit and relations with local partners. The clinics are being expanded as more local stakeholder groups get involved.

Help us shape the future of bereavement services in Waltham Forest, Redbridge and West Essex

When somebody important in your life dies, it can have a powerful and long-lasting impact on your feelings. It can also affect your wider life, for example, at work or school, your family life, financial security or where you live.

We want to hear from people in Waltham Forest, Redbridge and West Essex, including health and care colleagues, who have lost someone close to them about their experiences, feelings and needs around bereavement and grief.

Your feedback will help us improve bereavement services across the area, and develop a brand-new bereavement service for Waltham Forest. This is part of wider work across the Whipps Cross catchment area to engage with people about the support and services they need at the end of life. The feedback will be used by the project team and clinical reference group to develop a set of proposals based on what residents’ views.

We appreciate that any bereavement can be a very difficult time for people – your input will help us put the right support in place.

How you can help:

  • Please take part in the confidential survey.
  • Spread the word! Waltham Forest, Redbridge and West Essex residents – please encourage your friends and family to have their say.

Understanding choice of maternity care in north east London

NHS North East London want to ensure all women and pregnant people have choice when using maternity services. As part of this, we worked with Healthwatch and Maternity Voices Partnerships to understand what motivates choice when it comes to maternity care, and the demand for and nature of culturally sensitive maternity care provision in north east London.

Through online surveys and face to face interviews in antenatal clinics, children’s centres, foodbanks, nurseries and faith groups, we spoke with 403 people to hear about their experiences of maternity care and understand whether they felt they could make choices, why they chose to have their maternity care at their chosen hospital, birth centre or a home birth, and how they felt issues of cultural sensitivity and associated barriers impacted their choice. 

Findings identified that we are still seeing an ongoing division in maternity experience relating to health inequality. Due to sensitive questioning of the maternity choice engagement we are able to understand a closer identification of particular communities facing intersectional disadvantage. Findings indicate:

  • Referral by GP or self-referral correlates to the level of choice and co-production experienced by maternity service users.
  • Fluency in English is a well-known marker of inequality, and this is seen across our boroughs.  
  • Being a single parent, although now less stigmatised, remains a marker of inequality because of the GP referral pathway.
  • Service users from Black African, Turkish, Pakistani and Eastern European communities are less likely to experience choice of maternity unit because they rely on GP referral.
  • Respondents of Black ethnicities experience a double barrier to maternity care because they are more likely to value cultural symmetry but less likely to experience this.
  • Polish and Pakistani respondents were less likely to report having access to professionals who speak their language.
  • Antenatal classes have suffered a pandemic impact. They are no longer widely available free at the point of access, and this might negatively impact service users facing inequality. 
  • Antenatal provision is at times perceived to be rushed and lacking engagement from maternity health professionals.

Following these findings, recommendations include areas focused on: scoping of GP and self-referral structures, management of antenatal service capacity and clear information for service users on antenatal clinic waiting times, increase training for staff on cultural sensitivities and trauma informed care, improved interpreting services for those with less than conversational English, improved parking facilities for units where car in the main mode of transport and greater awareness of the nature of health inequality across North East London.

You can read the full report, with all the findings and recommendations on our website. Healthwatch also produced in-depth reports for each maternity unit and Borough.

NEL LMNS are working with maternity units, Healthwatch, local voluntary and community groups and service users to deliver on the recommendations and actions required in direct response to findings. The recommendations from this report will add to the ongoing actions and delivery outlined in the Maternity Equity and Equality strategy and action plan, published in December 2022. The insights from both these pieces of engagement, and subsequent reports, will inform improvements in maternity care for all our communities, reducing health inequalities and improving health outcomes.

New fertility policy makes access to NHS treatment fairer in north east London

The NHS in north east London will from today (3 April 2023) fund up to three cycles of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) for all eligible local people, as part of changes that make the funding of NHS treatment for people with fertility problems fairer across the area.

This change is one of a number in the new north east London fertility policy, which replaces the previous five different policies across the area. The new single policy was approved by the NHS North East London Integrated Care Board in November 2022 and will mean that all eligible people registered with a GP in north east London will be able to have the same fertility treatment, such as IVF – this was not previously the case.

Dr Anju Gupta, GP and Clinical Lead at NHS North East London, said: “Our new policy is good news for local people who need help to try to have a baby. We’ve increased the amount of treatment you can have and improved access to some treatments. I’m proud that the policy is fairer and that it recognises people’s different fertility situations and needs.”

“Fertility and fertility problems are a highly personal and emotive topic, and every person has different needs and expectations of what support the NHS should provide. With this in mind, we acknowledge that our new policy doesn’t address all of the concerns of some local people. However, we believe it does address inequalities across north east London, while prioritising treatment for people with proven fertility issues.”

There are many treatments that can support people to try to get pregnant, some of which are paid for by the NHS. The main treatment areas where NHS North East London has made changes in its policy are:

  • Increasedaccess to IVF and the number of cycles available:
    • All eligible people aged under 40 are now entitled to up to three full IVF cycles. Previously people in Barking and Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge (BHR) were entitled to one embryo transfer only.
    • The upper age limit to access IVF treatment has been increased by one year. All eligible people aged 40, 41 and 42 are now entitled to one full IVF cycle. Previously this was not funded for people aged 40 and over in BHR nor for people aged 42 in other areas of north east London.
  • Increased funding for intrauterine insemination (IUI) for eligible people:
    • Trying to get pregnant using donor insemination who have fertility problems. IUI was not previously funded for these people.
    • With some conditions and social, cultural or religious objections to IVF. IUI was not previously funded for these people.
    • With a physical disability or psychosexual problem.
    • With a condition that means they need IUI as part of their fertility treatment.
  • Increased the length of time the local NHS will fund thestorage of eggs, sperm and embryos in cases of fertility preservation to:
    • Up to their 43rd birthday for people aged under 32.
    • Up to 10 years for people aged 32 and over.
    • Previously storage was funded for the first 10 years in Tower Hamlets and for the first five years in other areas of north east London.

The new policy is for both individuals and couples with a fertility problem, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or relationship status, and applies to people who are registered with a GP in Barking and Dagenham, City of London, Hackney, Havering, Newham, Redbridge, Tower Hamlets or Waltham Forest.

Gwenda Burns, Chief Executive of national charity Fertility Network UK, said: “Fertility Network UK applauds NHS North East London for their new fertility policy, which will offer hope to so many people struggling to become parents. It is a fertility policy for the 21st century and we are pleased to have helped with their engagement work on it.”

NHS North East London used the latest national clinical guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, research and best practice to develop the new policy. Clinicians, including GPs and fertility experts also helped to shape it.

A public engagement period on the proposed new policy ran from 13 June to 22 August 2022 and overall the feedback received was positive. All the feedback was analysed and reviewed, and some changes were made to the final policy as a result. The engagement report and responses to the feedback received can be found on the NHS North East London website.

The full policy and other documents, including questions and answers, an information leaflet and a summary of the main changes can be found on the NHS North East London website.