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Visiting Stay and Plays to talk about children's health services

18/10/2016

"I suggested to her parents that [she] might have her two year check up here. It was very straightforward and the Healthcare Visitor was so accommodating - took her time and answered all questions. 100% service. Where else in the country would you get such good service?"

Carer at Hanley Crouch Community Association, July 2016

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Between July and September we visited four children's centres and two community centres during 'Stay and Play' sessions. These are drop-ins that provide a stimulating environment for pre-school children, as well as advice, signposting and a place to meet for parents and carers.

We spoke to parents and carers informally; mostly while they were playing with the children. We asked about their experience of any of Islington's health and social care services for children, including GPs, health visitors and hospitals. We spoke to 22 parents and carers and received 25 comments overall, all about health services:

Around half of the comments reported a good experience of access to health services

Appointments were described as being 'easy to get' and several specifically mentioned being able to get same-day appointments at their GP: 'no problem with GP...I have been seen straight away a couple of times', 'she [child] is always seen same-day if she has a fever', 'very good for children when there's an emergency – you always get an appointment'.

Two people spoke favourably about the communication they had with health staff: 'the Consultant [for my son with epilepsy] makes space for him and used to email at weekends to check up', 'now I can just email the Health Visitor and she replies quickly [and] comes regularly'.

Around half of the comments reported a poor experience of access.

Some said that you had to call or go to the GP at specific times to get a same-day appointment, which was inconvenient: 'I had to stand in line at 8am...leaving my son with my husband', 'you have to call up at 8:45am which is inconvenient, otherwise you have to get one for the next day', 'you have to call at 8am, no one picks up, and if they do all the appointments are gone', 'you have to call before 8am and it can take 20 minutes to speak to someone'. On five instances parents or carers said they had to take their child to A&E because they could not get a same-day appointment. Two children had hypermobility conditions, and their parents/carers struggled because 'diagnosis at the GP took 6 months...I had to call 2-3 times a week' and 'there was a long wait to see the paediatrician...they said if I cancelled the appointment it would take longer'.

Comments about the services themselves were more positive than negative.

'GPs very good and give you plenty of time', 'my GP makes stuff easy to understand'.

Several people mentioned having a Health Visitor: 'I can't fault my Health Visitor', 'answers all questions', 'they were supportive and phone up to check how things are'.

Of a paediatrician service specific to a hypermobility condition, 'they were good at explaining her condition, helping me understand and calming my nerves'.

Two people had been offered translation by their GP or health service.

What negative feedback there was (about services) was varied in theme.

'The GP tries to help out, but there is never enough time', 'I was unimpressed by the new baby check – they didn't bother removing the nappy so the weight was incorrect', 'the weigh-in clinic was chaotic and inefficient', 'the doctor [at Whittington A&E] didn't calm her down or engage with her at all. I felt intimidated by the doctor'.

One parent specifically mentioned wanting a female GP: 'I felt vulnerable after the baby was born'.

It was expressed that a walk-in service would be useful, and that reception staff should receive training on urgent symptoms in children.

Equality monitoring

Gender of children: 12 Female,  5 Male, 5 not recorded.
Age of children: All were aged 5 years and younger.
Ethnicity of children: 1 Asian/Asian British, 2 Black/Black British: African, 2 Latin American, 1 Mixed (White & Asian), 3 Mixed (Other), 5 White British, 1 White (Other), 7 not recorded.
Postcodes: 2 from N1, 3 from N4, 9 from N7, 2 from N19, 6 not recorded.
Disability: 3 of the 22 respondents described their children/the children they cared for as disabled.

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