When you hear the term Health Trainer, you might think of the work they do to support people to diet and get down to the gym.
But a Health Trainer’s work isn’t all about healthy eating and exercise. Health Trainers, like all of our services, support the whole person.
We know that people who are in debt or worrying about their housing are less likely to stop smoking or to start eating well. Once someone feels like their life is on a more even keel, however, they are more likely to become physically healthier.
So, for us, it’s important that Health Trainers look at all the issues that their clients face and support them with any changes they want to make. This might mean signposting someone to another agency for help with substance misuse, finances, domestic abuse or housing; or it might mean giving them the opportunity to find – and the confidence to join – community groups or classes.
Health Trainers, like all Gateway’s staff, are trained extensively to equip clients with the latest information on, for example, changes to the benefits system and other social issues that could affect them.
They’re also experts in behavioural change, and the principles of behaviour change apply across the board – so seeing a Health Trainer, and learning how to recognise patterns of unhelpful behaviour, can have a positive impact on all areas of a person’s life.
And, of course, being part of Gateway means that Health Trainers have access to a huge knowledge base and network. So although they can’t be experts in everything, they are experts in finding someone who is!
In some cases Health Trainers get involved with organising groups, classes and events themselves. Just this week we received a letter from Pauline at the Long Term Conditions group that we help to run:
“…we would not have been able to continue with the group meetings without Gateway’s help. All the members of our small committee have long term health conditions and, as each year passes, we depend more and more on Gateway to expertly manage our budget, make all the arrangements for our speakers, catering and venue, arrange transport for those who need it and generally and enthusiastically make tea, answer questions, assist the less able with their lunch and much more………and all with a smile. They also help us to complete the CCG forms and signpost us to services that can help with specific problems…..as well as encouraging those who are able to go to the meetings that enable us to contribute our opinions (and needs) on health and social services matters.”
Wellbeing Advisor Scheme
One way in which we are currently building on the work that Health Trainers do, and evolving the service, is via a new Wellbeing Advisor scheme.
This is a pilot we set up with a group of nine Northfield Practices within Cross City CCG who form the Northfield Alliance.
All the practices have a Health Trainer assigned to them, so they’re already familiar with the service, but one practice and GP in particular, Dr Peter Arora from Jiggins Lane Surgery, wanted a service that also met the needs of patients who were presenting with an increasing range of social issues, including debt, caring responsibilities, housing problems and social isolation.
So we met with Dr Arora and our Health Trainer Commissioner, Elaine George, to agree how we might be able to support clients, and what sort of referral pathway would work best.
Now, GPs and other practice staff at Northfield Alliance practices directly refer to Health Trainers as before, but the referral form lists any additional social issues and Gateway effectively takes responsibility for that client and any interaction or engagement they have with other agencies.
Our main partner in the scheme is Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and in agreeing to be referred to the scheme, patients agree to a referral to both Health Trainers and CAB. Obviously for some people, their social issue takes precedence and in those cases we refer them to CAB initially, but then follow up at a later date to establish if they are at the point at which they’d like to work with a Health Trainer for lifestyle support.
While CAB are the main partner, Health Trainers also direct people to other agencies, such as our own Befriending Service, and of course through setting up group activities themselves such as EXTEND classes, Long Term Conditions groups, and walking groups.
Being able to support the whole person, and provide behaviour change tools to influence all aspects of their life, from health, to wellbeing via finance and housing means, we believe, more sustainable results for that person, less pressure on services such as GP, Social Services, DWP etc and a happier, healthier population.