Long Term Conditions group: giving patients a voice

You may remember that, back in March, we wrote about our involvement with a forum for people with long term health conditions. Birmingham South Central CCG had offered to cover the group’s running costs in return for some “patient insights” and feedback about the health services they all use, and Gateway became involved to facilitate the group sessions.

long term conditions groupWell, we’re delighted to say that the group is still going strong. (And this week we had a bit of a Christmas party – as you can see from the photos!)

Since Gateway’s involvement, the forum – now known as the Long Term Conditions Group – has grown, with eight new members. Some of these are Health Trainer clients who have been encouraged to join, and others found the group via notices in their GP surgery.

Members of the group are living with a range of long term conditions, including heart problems, diabetes, and ME. The forum provides an opportunity for people to meet others with similar issues, but it also gives them a voice and the chance to influence services.

Forum Committee member Pauline Hartley said, “This group, the only one I know of which supports people with ANY long term health condition and their carers, was struggling to survive and the funding we received from BSCCCG allowed us to look forward to regular meetings for this year.

“Gateway have played a very large part in our survival because, having been asked to support us, they have done everything they can to make our meetings run smoothly, to handle our budget as economically as possible, to encourage the small committee, to facilitate our speakers and to cheerfully assist and encourage our members to fill in the forms that enable us to pass our views and experiences on to the CCG.

“We have also been invited to attend health service events and Gateway have made sure we are introduced to services we may not have known about.”

long term conditions groupThis year the group has hosted a range of speakers, including representatives from Birmingham City Council, who’ve talked about benefits and housing issues, and from Carers UK. We also heard from Painting the Rainbow, who use tai chi and qigong as the core of their falls prevention programme, and Sarah from Gateway’s very own Volunteer Befrienders team, who introduced the group to our befriending service.

Health Trainers Joy, Chris, Tina and Glenn, help out at the meetings. Glenn said, “It’s a really good way for people to meet others in the same boat. Having a long term condition can sometimes make it difficult to get out much, and a social group like this can be really helpful, so we try and make it as easy as possible for people to get involved – we provide taxis to pick up and drop off, we provide lunch at every meeting and we make hundreds of cups of tea!”

Pauline continued, “It is wonderful to see the numbers increasing again. This group provides a ‘safe’ place for people who have chronic conditions but know they can come to a group that will offer them understanding and support. It matters not what health condition people have – but how they can be helped to deal with the isolation, the social problems and the access to services that will help them. Our members constantly ask if the group will stay open because it so important to them and even sometimes is the only place they go to for social interaction.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the group flourish and grow, so that as many people as possible can enjoy support and fellowship – and can also feel they are making a useful contribution to shaping the NHS services for people with long term health conditions.”

Membership is open to anyone who lives in South Birmingham, or is registered with a South Birmingham GP, and lives with a long term health condition. If you’d like to find out more, call Gateway on 0121 456 7820 and ask to speak to a Health Trainer about the Long Term Conditions group.

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