A HEALTH watchdog has announced its new projects for the coming year – and it is no surprise that coronavirus features predominantly.

Healthwatch Dorset's proposals are topped by initiatives to address the impact of Covid-19, but also include a wide range of other issues.

The announcement outlines projects focusing on the following themes:

n accessing local health and care services during the coronavirus pandemic

n children and adolescent mental health services

n primary care services (such GPs, pharmacy and dentistry)

n transport to health and social care services

n accident and emergency care (A&E)

Healthwatch Dorset Manager Louise Bate said: "We will launch our projects throughout the year, starting with our new online survey to find out how this virus outbreak may be changing the way in which you access local services, particularly if you rely on them for regular care.

"Social distancing means we will need to be creative about the way we reach people, but there are plenty of other ways people can share their experiences with us through online surveys, social media and over the phone, and we will be working hard to reach out and listen."

Each project will gather people’s views and experiences linked to a specific aspect of health and care provision.

The aim is to find out what works well for local people and what they think could be improved.

This public feedback will then be shared with those in charge of delivering health and care in Dorset with recommendations to help improve services for local people, says the watchdog.

Healthwatch Dorset local board chairman Vivienne Aird said: "Health and care services are more effective when they reflect and respond to the views and needs of local people.

"Our new projects will investigate the impact of coronavirus along with common themes that we have identified from public feedback received during the previous year.

"We have consulted widely to ensure that our work also feeds into national and local NHS and social care priorities.

"This approach will ensure that we are able to influence positive change and make a real difference for local people."

Visit healthwatchdorset.co.uk for further details.