Gateway has recently been asked to help run a Personal Health Forum for people with long term health conditions.
The Forum, which has been running for a few years, is primarily a support group but, as is the case with many such groups, they’ve been struggling to gain the funding they need to keep going over the last few years. So, recognising that this group is valuable for consultation purposes, Birmingham South Central CCG has offered to cover their running costs in return for some “patient insights” and feedback about the health services they all use.
Gateway will be facilitating the group sessions and, in doing so, offering some practical advice and information about services, as well as organising the feedback from members. We’re well placed to do this, of course; our established links across the south of the city, through the provision of our Health Trainer service, should be valuable to the group.
There’s a very important social side to the Forum, too. Having a long term health condition can be quite isolating at times, so this is an opportunity to get together with others who understand what it’s like. One group member said, “this is the only group I know of for people with long term conditions. There are groups for particular issues – diabetes sufferers, asthma, stroke clubs – but this is the only group I know of that brings people together with different issues, and it’s all the better for that”.
The Forum meets six times a year; every two months. Members plan the agenda themselves, including suggestions for guest speakers and activities. Gateway has taken on the practical side of things – we manage the budget and make all the arrangements for each meeting, including booking the venue, catering, speakers and activities – and even providing transport for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend.
As well as this, of course, we will collect the patients’ feedback in a way that’s useful for everyone. We will provide the CCGs with information about what it’s like for people to live with and manage a long term condition, as well as the availability of health services and the sort of support people feel they have received. We will also try and encourage group members to go to more health service events.
We’re very pleased that we’ve been asked to be part of this new partnership, as the Personal Health Forum fits in so well with the rest of our work and our ethos. We’re here to listen, to help give patients a voice, to help people who might otherwise be isolated, and to influence services, and our work with the Forum will do all of these things.
The group is keen to boost their membership, and to help more people benefit from the support they provide, so the link with Health Trainers is a useful one. Many Health Trainers are already engaging with GP practices and their patients in the area the forum covers, and many of these patients have long term conditions that their Health Trainer is helping them manage, so it’s hoped that some of these people may be interested in getting involved.
Health Trainer Glenn Rodgers said, “I’ve already got a client in mind and I’m going to be encouraging them to come along. It would be an incentive to get out of the house and an opportunity to talk with like-minded people. The group gives members the opportunity to comment about health services, whether it be positive or negative, and to have their voices heard.”
The first Gateway-facilitated session took place at the beginning of March and 19 group members took part. After some introductions from the CCG and Gateway, and a chat about how the Forum will work going forward, the group had a guest speaker from the British Legion Handyperson Scheme, then a buffet lunch and some time for socialising.
Personal Health Forum Committee member Pauline (pictured in the centre of the photo on the left) said, “after a couple of difficult years I am now feeling much more positive about the future of the group. This welcome partnership has given us the chance for the group to grow and flourish so I hope we will keep old members and gain many new. Our thanks go to Gateway and the CCG for giving us this opportunity.”
If you have a long term health condition and you’re interested in joining the Personal Health Forum, give Maxine a call at Gateway on 0121 456 7820. You need to live, or be registered with a GP, in South Birmingham.