A REPORT into people's experiences of health and care in the district during the first phase of Covid-19 says lessons need to be learned.

A survey was carried out by Keighley-based Healthwatch Bradford & District, between March 30 and June 29.

The findings, just published, reveal that people were experiencing difficulties obtaining clear and accessible information about Covid-19.

There was uncertainty surrounding the care of pre-existing conditions and communications about any changes.

People were confused about shielding rules and processes.

And there was concern about lockdown's impact on mental health and access to mental health services, for new and existing users.

Helen Rushworth – manager of Healthwatch Bradford & District, which is based at Central Hall in Alice Street – said: "The worldwide outbreak of Covid-19 has affected all areas of our lives.

"At Healthwatch Bradford & District, we wanted to find out how people were experiencing health and care during the first few months of the pandemic – from experiences of treatment if they contracted the virus, to how the impact of Covid-19 was affecting care of pre-existing conditions.

"We prepared the survey’s questions in full consultation with NHS Bradford District & Craven Clinical Commissioning Group.

"As it had to take place during the first national lockdown, we were unable to collect face-to-face responses in the community, so invited people to respond via our website, Twitter, Facebook and through the networks and groups that Healthwatch Bradford is linked into across the district.

"As online surveys are not accessible to everyone, we also encouraged people to get in touch and speak to us directly on the phone so we could access more qualitative data."

A number of respondents stressed the need for simplicity in communicating with people about Covid-19, particularly for people with brain injuries or dementia. Some people who had difficulty speaking or suffered from hearing loss found it hard to use the phone to access information, whilst others had difficulties using a computer to access online details.

Some including users of British Sign Language, braille, audio or large print and easy read information said their needs were not being met.

And people requiring treatment for pre-existing conditions said it had been cancelled without any follow-up information, leading to confusion.

The report recommends that local communications should reinforce national messages in a "clear and unambiguous" way and should reflect the diversity and communication needs of the district.

It says any changes to services for conditions other than Covid-19 should be communicated effectively and include a timeline wherever possible

And it urges that mental health services should be extended where necessary to reflect the impact of Covid-19 on the emotional wellbeing of residents.

The findings have been shared with the NHS Bradford District & Craven Clinical Commissioning Group and West Yorkshire & Harrogate Health & Care Partnership.

Ms Rushworth added: "We currently face the most significant challenges in health and social care for a generation. Although we acknowledge that some of the concerns reported to us are likely to stem from communication issues on national guidelines, our report shows that there are clear lessons to be learned at a local level."

The report can be viewed at healthwatchbradford.co.uk/report/2020-10-23/experiences-health-care-bradford-during-first-phase-covid-19.