Healthwatch Press Release 22 June 2022

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Let’s make mammograms easy – Healthwatch Sunderland demonstrate how self-advocacy works in joint appeal for easy access to breast services

A devoted independent champion for health and social care is letting communities have their say on issues to support easy access of services and information. Through working together with Sunderland People First, a group of self-advocates with learning disabilities and autistic people, the Healthwatch Sunderland team met Sharon.

Tara Johnson, Project Lead of Healthwatch Sunderland, said: “Sharon told our team that she received an initial invitation for a mammogram in an easy read format, but then she was recalled to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for further tests. “The letter to recall Sharon for further tests was not in an easy read format, and she was not able to understand it.” Through working with Sharon, and wider research, Healthwatch Sunderland found that recall letters after a mammogram were not available in an easy read format.

Tara added: “Healthwatch Sunderland took action and highlighted the issue with Public Health England and then worked with NHS England and NHS Improvement, with a fantastic outcome of four different recall letters available for hospital breast services to use all around the country.” Healthwatch Sunderland would like to thank Sharon for sharing her story, as without her concerns we may have never known there was a gap in access to breast services.

Sharon, said: “When I received the letter to go to the hospital I didn’t know what it said, as it wasn’t in easy read, this made me nervous, but I spoke to Healthwatch and now I feel really good that we have been able to help so many women across the country who need easy read letters.” Sharon has been a founder member of Sunderland People First since the start in 1994. Sharon has recently announced her retirement after 28 years of outstanding work as a self-advocate, campaigning for the rights of people with a learning disability.

Sharon has shared how important it is to have made such a difference supporting women with a learning disability to attend Cancer screening programmes: “People need easy read information at the start to understand what is involved. This can help you feel confident to ask any questions and think about what would make your screening appointment easier for you.”

The team at Healthwatch Sunderland recognise how brave Sharon was in sharing her story about breast screening appointments. This has been a brilliant example of how working together can make such a difference in supporting our communities, both locally and nationally.
Feedback to Healthwatch Sunderland can help services spot issues that are affecting care for you and your loved ones.

If you would like to talk about any health or social care issues in Sunderland, get in touch with Healthwatch Sunderland:

  • Call 0191 514 7145 between the hours of 9:00am and 16:00pm
  • email:  [email protected]
  • or text 07418 364 340

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