Family doctors across Mendip are supporting a new and innovative way for patients, carers and their families to take more control over their health and wellbeing whilst at the same time harnessing the enthusiasm of community volunteers to help set up new community support groups.
Established just two months ago with funding from Mendip’s three GP Federations, the scheme called ‘Health Connections Mendip’, has already supported 44 patients in their one-to-one service and has attracted over 149 people to become actively involved in community groups and services. The GPs are also getting involved and just one Mendip practice has signposted 110 patients to the scores of groups and services in the community since April.
Describing the benefits of the Health Connections Mendip, Jenny Hartnoll, the scheme’s Service Lead, said: “Health Connections is a way of helping patients and communities in many different ways. For patients living with long-term conditions it’s about helping them to better manage their condition and thereby live more independent and empowered lives.
“To date the service has supported patients to set up scores of support groups, for example stroke support groups, chronic lung disease support groups and sight loss (macular degeneration) group – supporting 100s of people. The outcome for patients, carers and the wider community is a real network of advice and support which improves the personal wellbeing of patients as well as overcoming the social isolation that patients and carers might experience.”
Will Shipp, Health Connector, works one-to-one with patients and explained: “We work locally offering new, flexible ways to support patients and help them improve their knowledge, skills and confidence in looking after their health and wellbeing, no matter what their circumstances. I’ve already been really inspired by the progress I have seen patients make after only a few sessions. It has been down to their courage and openness to access new support for themselves and make changes. Patients are already saying that they now feel more optimistic about the future.”
Dr Helen Kingston, a GP partner with Frome Medical Practice explained that the service’s vision is: "A community where people are supported to be creative, active and resourceful in response to their own and each other’s unique and shared needs, and there is easily accessible and integrated care and support available for all."
Health Connections Mendip helps improve the health and wellbeing of patients, support groups and the wider community in a number of different ways. This includes:
One-to-one support to patients:
Our 7 Mendip Health Connectors can listen to people’s health story and give them information about local services such as exercise classes and support groups. They also work one-to-one to assist people in setting health-related goals and support them to make sustainable changes. This service is free of charge and is open to patients of Mendip GP practices.
Helping to establish community support groups:
Health Connections Mendip supports community members to get new community support groups up and running with advice and expertise from its three Area Leads.
Training for ‘Health Champions’:
The scheme’s Volunteer Co-ordinator is training volunteers to be ‘Health Champions’ who can signpost friends, family and neighbours to the hundreds of community support groups that exist across Mendip. The service has trained 14 Champions since April.
Providing ‘Digital Health Champions’:
The scheme’s ‘Digital Health Champions’ help people get onto the schemes web site (www.healthconnectionsmendip.org/) where they can get access to a directory of scores of local health and social care support groups. Since April the website has had 3,664 views.
Regular support programmes and workshops:
The service runs regular ‘Pain Management Programmes across Mendip’, ‘On Track’ goal setting groups, Relaxation Workshops and has set up four ‘Talking Cafes’ in Frome, Shepton Mallet, Wells and Glastonbury where people can meet up and socialise.
Patients and the public can contact the Health Connections Mendip scheme by telephoning 01373 468368 (Monday to Friday and during normal office hours) or emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org