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Meet the team


  • Professor Kaz Stuart University of Cumbria
  • Michelle Thompson BEM CEO Darlington Healthwatch
  • Toni McHale Project Development Manager Healthwatch Teeside, Sunderland, Co Durham
  • Sue Stevenson Chief Operating Officer Healthwatch Cumbria
  • Cynthia Atkin Interim Operations Manager Healthwatch Newcastle & Gateshead
  • Victoria Grainger Regional Digital Lead (Primary care) North East and North Cumbria CCGs

What is the positive change that has emerged through new collaborations or partnerships during Covid-19 that your project is going to embed?

During the COVID pandemic, localised patient, carer and citizen experience has been captured by regional Healthwatch organisations across North East and North Cumbria (NENC) X14 & Yorkshire & Humber (Y&H) X15. A unique collaboration has formed to support the integration of the public voice during reset and evaluation between local Healthwatch, two AHSN’s (NENC & Y&H) and academics from University of Cumbria. Initial work facilitated data sharing and collation of peoples experience from NENC and our intention is to build upon this successful work ( ) and extend across borders. Synthesis of data rich Healthwatch surveys from across an entire region, harnessing the experience from Cumbria, will provide a real sense what contributed to wellbeing during the pandemic, detail of what was valued and contributed to the “social narrative” during the pandemic. This has been used to inform the Select Committee, Public Health Intelligence, Cabinet Office and local planning boards.

What does your project aim to achieve?

We aim to harness the data already captured via the regional Healthwatch surveys and to bring this data together to create a unified social narrative for the North East and Yorkshire as to the impact of the COVID 19 pandemic. This social narrative will be an invaluable resource for future health crises / pandemics and will ensure the maximum national benefit from locally collected data. The data will be shared via appropriate Select Committee’s, Cabinet Office Seminars, Health Foundation Inquiries and Public Health Intelligence calls.
We will learn from people’s stories using reflection to understand, and offer insight, to the kinds of social and other interventions that have worked well and less well. Academic research will allow us to compare our local experiences across communities in our geographical footprint and with other areas worldwide. We will identify examples of similarity and difference to offer ideas for global and local learning.

How will the project be delivered?

Our 2 AHSN’s, 4 ICS’s, academics and local Healthwatch have developed an effective collaboration during the pandemic. We recognize the value of the data collected as part of the national Healthwatch survey process but can see that the localised data capture has its limitations beyond a local context. We would employ a researcher to carry out a thorough data analysis across the partnerships using methods delivered successfully by the University of Cumbria and put in place appropriate data sharing agreements and then synthesise the data from across multiple local Healthwatch in our region and collate a unified social narrative. This will allow us to capture the impact of the pandemic upon citizens, shared common experiences from across the North East and Yorkshire and reflect upon the social impact that the pandemic has had upon our population. This will inform recovery planning and actions in any further ‘waves’ or ‘pandemics’.

How is your project going to share learning?

Working across the four Integrated Care Systems we will identify how and where the learning should be shared to maximize influence and impact. Using our academic networks to seek opportunities to tell our story and share our findings nationally and further afield. Our local networks take the learning to those whose experiences informed our work.
This proposal, if successful would be freely shared using:
• All web spaces occupied and maintained by partners and stakeholders including 2 AHSN’s in liaison with the AHSN Network, 4 ICS’s and associated networks, academic establishments and participating local Healthwatch across the NENC and Y&H.
• We will share learning through the Q Network and through presentations, videos, Twitter and regional improvement events again shared by previously outlined partners and stakeholders and networks.
• Virtual or in person presentation at Q Community event(s) and other forums across boundaries.
• Blogs and updates on Q website.
• Formal published academic article(s)

How you can contribute

  • Our rich data will be brought to life with heartfelt quotes from Local Healthwatch reports and enhanced by academic studies and research to create a 360-degree picture of experiences. Using their own words, we will highlight the highs and lows of experience, expose inequalities, and demonstrate extreme resilience as well as deep despair.
  • We would invite you to:
  • Act as critical reviewers of our ideas and approach both of idea content and implementation to strengthen what we intend do.
  • Provide insight and general comments on the concept
  • Inform us of expressions of interest in working with us / or sharing ideas.
  • Help signpost us to others who might be able to input into, and benefit from this project.
  • Guidance / advice on targeting hard to reach communities.

Plan timeline

1 Mar 2021 Appoint Researcher, deploy Data sharing agreements Establish steering group
1 Apr 2021 Data collection / analysis identify key themes / outputs from both regions
1 Aug 2021 Partners and stakeholders collaboratively to explore topics with Healthwatch themes
1 Nov 2021 Draft final report including next stages / recommendations
1 Jan 2022 Collate final report, accademic paper virtual event to share outputs


  1. This looks like a really interesting and important project. The voices from Health Watch information can help to learn lessons from the pandemic and help shape the future. This will be a fantastic insight which is credible and highly relevant, thank you.

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