Healthwatch Dudley news and updates

Take part in our January People’s Network and help shape the future of Dudley borough hospital services

We care about our local health services. To help plan a better future for everyone, we want to hear your views.

For our January People’s Network we have teamed up with The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust for a friendly online conversation about the future of local hospital and community health services.

The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust provides hospital services from Russells Hall Hospital and Guest Outpatient Centre in Dudley and Corbett Outpatient Centre in Stourbridge.  The Trust also provides a wide range of community services such as district nursing, continence services, diabetes support, podiatry and physiotherapy, in people’s homes and from a variety of different locations across Dudley borough.

Plans are being made for the coming five years and the Trust wants to ask:

  • What do you think works well at the moment?
  • Where do you see gaps?
  • What would make things better?
  • What would you like to see going forward?
  • What are priorities for you?

During this event you will also get to hear from two senior doctors who are working on the front line of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Put the kettle on and join us, your views can make a difference!

When and where?

10.30 am – 12.00 pm
Wednesday 27 January 2021
Your sofa or kitchen table

Book your place

Book your place here and after you register we will email you a meeting link a few days before the event. The event will take place using Zoom, if you haven’t used it before, this link gives you more information about how to join a meeting but if you get stuck, let us know before the 27th and someone will get back to you to talk you through and have a practice run.

National lockdown – You must stay at home

The Government placed England under new lockdown measures on 5 January. The single most important action we can all take is to stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives. You must not leave, or be outside of your home except where necessary. You may leave the home to:

  • Shop for basic necessities, for you or a vulnerable person
  • Go to work, or provide voluntary or charitable services, if you cannot reasonably do so from home
  • Exercise with your household (or support bubble) or one other person, this should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.
  • Meet your support bubble or childcare bubble where necessary, but only if you are legally permitted to form one
  • Seek medical assistance or avoid injury, illness or risk of harm (including domestic abuse)
  • Attend education or childcare – for those eligible

Find out more about the national rules here.

You can find additional information about local infection rates and how Dudley Borough compares to neighbouring areas through the Dudley COVID-19 Dashboard, which is updated daily.  Use the arrows at the bottom of your screen to view each page.

Symptom-free COVID-19 testing at pharmacies and other local sites

Symptom-free, lateral flow tests are available at participating Dudley borough pharmacies, at Saltwells Education Centre and from 19 January at Dudley Leisure Centre.

Symptom-free, lateral flow tests are for:

  • Key workers with public facing jobs who live or work in Dudley borough. Key workers are people who have public facing jobs and provide a service to people outside of their own household such as carers, shop workers, delivery drivers, taxi drivers, cleaners, utilities, tradespeople, those working in places of worship, voluntary, community settings etc.
  • People who have regular contact with vulnerable groups and can’t access tests through work.  You might be in regular contact with people who are clinically extremely vulnerable, people aged over 70, pregnant women, or you might be in a social care bubble or be an informal carer.

Key workers are being encouraged to access lateral flow testing twice a week wherever possible.

Tests are available by appointment only, are for people who are completely symptom free and you get the results in 20-30 minutes.

Book a test at a participating Dudley Borough pharmacy
Book a test at Saltwells Education Centre and from 19 January at Dudley Leisure Centre

You must only get a symptom-free test if you feel completely well and have no symptoms at all.

If you have any of the symptoms of coronavirus:

  • a new continuous cough
  • a high temperature
  • a loss or change to your taste or smell

You should book a test using the standard booking form or by calling 119.

If you feel unwell but are not displaying the usual symptoms of coronavirus, you must also use the standard booking form or call 119 and not take a symptom-free test, you will need to select the option stating that your local council or health protection team has asked you to get tested.

Test sites for people with symptoms are located at: (visits must be pre-booked)

  • Studley Gate car park next to Swanpool Park in Stourbridge (new walk through site opening 15 January
  • Flood Street car park, Dudley (walk through)
  • Jackson Street Lye (walk through)
  • Waterfront, Merry Hill (drive through)
  • Himley Hall (drive through)

Launch of national vaccination centres

This Monday saw the opening of seven national vaccination centres, in addition to the 100s of local vaccination sites lead by primary care networks and hospital hubs already up and running, and will complement community pharmacy vaccination sites that will begin next week.

The national sites are working in parallel with many local vaccination centres contacting patients and is necessary to drive through the vaccination programme at pace.
The first sites to open are as follows and were chosen from those ready to vaccinate large numbers of people quickly to give a geographical spread covering as many people as possible.
  • Ashton Gate in Bristol (South West)
  • Epsom racecourse in Surrey (South East)
  • Excel Centre in London (London)
  • The Centre for Life (North East and Yorkshire)
  • Etihad Tennis Club in Manchester (North West)
  • Robertson House in Stevenage (East of England)
  • Millennium Point in Birmingham (Midlands)
These sites will work hand in hand with GPs, pharmacies, hospitals and care homes to offer vaccines to everyone in the top four priority cohorts, saving thousands of lives.
Letters have been sent to people aged 80 or over who have not yet received a vaccination and live 30 to 45 minutes drive from one of the seven new sites and explain how they can book a slot – over the phone or online through the national booking service.

The letters explain that people may have also been contacted by their GP services and if they have booked with them, they should take no further action and continue with their original booking.

In order to avoid duplication or confusion, the system has been designed so that letters only go to patients who have not yet had their vaccine. However, if an overlap does occur, whereby a patient already has an appointment booked at a local Vaccination Service, they can disregard the letter.

In line with the process already in place, the NHS will contact people when it is their turn to book their vaccine, people should not contact the NHS to get an appointment.

How has the vaccine been developed so quickly?

If you have been wondering how the vaccine has been produced in what feels like lightening speeds, this short film from the National Institute for Health Research NIHR might help to answer a few questions:

Share your COVID-19 vaccination experiences

As vaccinations begin to be rolled out, local people have started to tell us about their experiences of having the jab.

Currently the NHS is offering the COVID-19 vaccine to people most at risk from coronavirus who are:

  • people aged 80 and over
  • people who live or work in care homes
  • health and social care workers at high risk

Find out more here about the vaccination roll-out.

How was it for you?
If you or someone you know has received the vaccine we would like to know how it went so we can share your experience with NHS England, Healthwatch England and with local health providers.

Whether you have had a good experience or if you thought something could have been better, we would like to hear from you, as your views could help to make services better as more and more people get called up to be vaccinated.  Either send us a message or call us on 03000 111 001 (leave us your number and we will call you back).

Have you seen your GP lately?

As we all get used to a new way of living, lots of services have moved online or have improved how people can get in touch by telephone.  For many people these new ways of working have helped us to have better or more convenient access to essential healthcare services.  While for others, particularly people without Internet access, who struggle with technology, or who can’t afford data or phone credit, things have become more difficult.

Healthwatch Dudley is putting together a report, which will go to Healthwatch England and to the Government to help better understand what is working well, how people are struggling to get access to services at their doctors surgeries because of being digitally excluded and how things could be better.

We would love to hear your experiences of this, or because you are likely to be reading this using the Internet, it would be even better if you could put us in touch with someone who you know, perhaps a friend, relative, neighbour or a person who you support as a volunteer or in your employment.

We want to hear from everyone but are particularly keen to have a chat with:

  • People who are aged 65 and over
  • People with language barriers
  • People with sensory problems, learning disabilities and dexterity / mobility problems

Please send us a message or call us on 03000 111 001 (leave us your number and we will call you back).

Help us find Young COVID-19 Champions!

Healthwatch Dudley is working with Dudley Young Health Champions and Dudley Council Public Health to roll out a ‘Young COVID-19 Champion’ initiative. The project is supporting attempts to end the pandemic and providing young people with much needed opportunities to volunteer and develop their skills.

Young COVID-19 Champions will mirror the Dudley borough adult COVID-19 Community Champions scheme, which provides local people with accurate and helpful information about the pandemic.

Young people who sign up are provided with an interactive, online information session about the role. They will then be provided with up to date, accurate information and advice from central Government and from Dudley Council Public Health, that they will be asked to promote on social media and to friends and family.

For more information, or if you are a young person who would like to sign up, please contact or

New Government backed domestic abuse support scheme in pharmacies

From 14 January, people experiencing domestic abuse will be able to access much needed support from thousands of pharmacies across the UK, backed by the government.

ANI stands for Action Needed Immediately but is pronounced Annie. If a pharmacy has the ‘Ask for ANI’ logo on display, it means they are ready to help you.

The pharmacy will offer a private space, provide you with a phone and ask if you need support from the police or other domestic abuse support services.  Find out more about the scheme here.

Where to get local help and support during the pandemic

Staying safe and well  Support and advice to help you keep safe and well during the coronavirus pandemic, including community safety, health and wellbeing, mental health and services available to support you.

Financial support  If you are worried about debt or your financial situation at this time, there are services in Dudley that will offer their support.

Dudley food and support service  People who are in need of extra support can contact 0300 3302 152, Monday to Friday from 9.30am-12.30pm. This emergency helpline supports people who are vulnerable, self-isolating and who have no friends, family or neighbours who can help them at this time to purchase food and collect medication.  Callers will be signposted to NHS volunteer responders, food bank, family centres, winter warmth scheme and the COVID-19 welfare assistance grant.

Information for older people can be found in this useful guide to keeping safe and well this winter.

For more information visit the Dudley Council Coronavirus Advice pages.

About Healthwatch Dudley:

As your local Healthwatch we listen to your views and experiences and share them with people who make key decisions about health and social care services.If you have got something to say about your experience of a doctor, dentist, a hospital stay or a loved one who is accessing a day care service or a nursing home, we want to hear from you.

Although our offices are currently closed to the general public our staff team remain focused on delivering our Healthwatch statutory duties, which you can read more about in our annual report.

If you belong to a group that has continued to meet online during lockdown and you would like us to drop in to one of your sessions, do let us know.

Best wishes

Healthwatch Dudley