Pages on the new Suffolk and North East Essex Wellbeing Support Services website – www.sneewellbeing.org.uk – have been created to signpost people to local organisations which can help them stay well while waiting.
There is support on how to remain physically active; maintain good mental health and wellbeing; and best manage long term conditions such as asthma and COPD.
Clinicians say waiting for surgery or hospital treatment can also cause social problems for some people who may find it more difficult to get out and meet others.
Befriending organisations, local transport services and support for financial and housing issues are also listed, as well as organisations which help people who have taken on caring responsibilities.
The website is divided into three geographical areas - west Suffolk, Ipswich and east Suffolk, and north east Essex. Key local resources are listed under each heading, which can in turn direct patients to even more local support if required.
Booklets can also be obtained from the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) at Colchester, Ipswich and West Suffolk hospitals. Easy Read versions are also available on request from the hospitals’ Learning Disability Specialist Nurses.
The creation of the website and accompanying booklets follows feedback from local people, clinicians and Healthwatch who reported the need for patients to have local information in one central resource.
Ed Garratt, Chief Executive of the Suffolk and North East Essex NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “I very much hope that the information we have put together will help those who are struggling.
“It’s more important than ever that people have access to organisations that can support them while they’re waiting for an operation or hospital treatment.
“If people become out of condition while they’re waiting, or their long-term condition is less well managed, that can ultimately delay their surgery or increase the length of their recovery post-surgery. This places people at risk.
Dr Angela Tillett is Chief Medical Officer at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Colchester and Ipswich hospitals, and community services in north east Essex and east Suffolk.
She said: “I realise that this has been a difficult time and it is great to see much more help and advice being available. Being active, eating healthily and getting outdoors are among the best things you can do to look after yourself as part of a healthy lifestyle, but particularly if you are waiting for medical treatment.
“Anything you can do to support your physical and mental wellbeing, along with managing any existing conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, will help you to prepare for and recover from procedures or treatments more quickly.
“Taking an active role in planning and preparing for your procedure or treatment will help you to feel in control, leave hospital sooner and could get you back to activities you enjoy, or just simple day to day tasks, even faster.”
Dr Vigdis Thorisdottir, Consultant Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgeon at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Whilst patients are waiting for surgery, there’s lots they can do to look after their health and get the help and support they need.
“For operations such as hip and knee replacements, it’s really important to incorporate physical activity into your daily life as much as your body allows. It’s also vital to look after yourself by eating a well-balanced diet, stopping smoking and managing long-term conditions.
“This new website has lots of information to help patients to look after their health as well as get other lifestyle advice as well as practical support.”
Samantha Glover, Chief Executive of Healthwatch Essex, said: “We are pleased to see that this resource has been made available given the number of calls we receive which tell us that it is difficult to find one place where all of this information is available in an accessible way.
“We know that the pandemic has resulted in significant treatment backlogs in Essex which our colleagues in the NHS are working hard to tackle. It is important that people remain in good physical and mental health while they await the treatment they need, not least because of how it can positively impact on recovery periods, so we hope this resource will go some way to helping people manage their conditions during what can be a stressful and frustrating time.”
Wendy Herber, Independent Chair for Healthwatch Suffolk, said: “Healthwatch Suffolk welcomes these important resources, and we will be sharing them widely as a part of our project exploring the impact of waiting for hospital care on people’s wellbeing.
“Together with the health and care system, we want to learn more about how people are managing to cope whilst they wait, whether they feel supported with their condition and what they feel could help them now. We’ll be sharing the results with the Suffolk and North East Essex Integrated Care System and hospitals to support improvements.
“The survey can be found on the Healthwatch Suffolk website www.healthwatchsuffolk.co.uk/electivecaresurvey and help is available from our team by calling freephone 0800 448 8234.”
Further support for patients to maintain or achieve their fitness to ensure their surgery can go ahead safely will be provided by the acute trusts as part of the national ‘My Planned Care’ online platform and other activities are being explored locally.