Thousands of people in the North East and North Yorkshire have had a say on the future of NHS services where they live thanks to the Healthwatch #WhatWouldYouDo campaign.

People in County Durham, together with residents from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Darlington, Teesside, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby, said what they needed most to help them live healthy lives was “access to help and the treatment I need when I want it”. “Professionals that listen to me when I speak about my concerns” often came a close second in people’s wishes for an effective future NHS.

Thirteen local Healthwatch teams worked together to give people a voice across the region on how the NHS long-term plan should be implemented locally, collecting and analysing 2,480 surveys and meeting around 300 people in focus groups. Mental health, long-term conditions, cancer services and access to GPs, were among respondent’s top priorities.

A reoccurring theme in the feedback given to Healthwatch County Durham was the importance of “easy access to services which promote a healthy life”. People wanted more options to be available in their local and immediate areas that didn’t require excessive travel or unreasonable delays. Issues with patient transport and parking difficulties were also highlighted as impacting on easy access. Some residents also noted the importance of maintaining traditional ways of contacting services, eg by telephone, alongside newer technologies, to ensure access for all.

Many people wanted better access to services that promote a healthy lifestyle. People in County Durham noted the benefits social activities can have on reducing social isolation, particularly in rural areas.

The views shared with Healthwatch County Durham and the region’s other Healthwatch teams have been summarised in two reports (see below) and will be used by the NHS to help develop local services for the future.

• NORTH report: Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham

• SOUTH report: County Durham, Darlington, Teesside, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby

Michelle Thompson BEM, Chief Executive Officer of Healthwatch Darlington which led the research, said: “At a time of increasing pressure on NHS services and financial budgets, this research highlights how people want to be more involved in the management of their care and to make joint decisions with professionals. To do this they want better knowledge through well-communicated information and more options through better access to primary care and more joined-up services.”

Mark Adams, Ken Bremner MBE and Dr Neil O’Brien, of the North, Central and South Integrated Care Partnerships, said: “Our ambition is to develop an outstanding Integrated Care System, which is continuously improving health and care outcomes and delivering safe and sustainable services. We will take forward the report findings, which demonstrate that we have been able to involve patients and communities at the earliest stage possible when we talk about our plans and priorities. We will build upon Healthwatch’s sound approach in seeking out and hearing the patient’s voice, and working with a range of hard-to-reach and diverse groups.”

Nationally, more than 30,000 people shared their views online about how the NHS could better support their overall health in future and how it could improve care for specific conditions.

Staff and volunteers from all 151 Healthwatch organisations around England also ran more than 500 focus groups from March to May, bringing together people from all sections of the community to share how they would improve local NHS.

For more information on this story contact Julia Catherall, Healthwatch County Durham, on 0191 378 1037.

For more general information about Healthwatch County Durham visit