After a period of uncertainty, we’re pleased to be able to confirm that the Gateway Health Trainers service will be continuing until at least March 2017.
Unfortunately, Birmingham Public Health has indeed ended their funding for Lighten Up, meaning that the Gateway Lighten Up service will end (although it will continue in Solihull).
Health Trainers: onwards and upwards
As Gateway Lighten Up stops taking referrals, we’re expecting an increase of referrals into Gateway Health Trainers. Of course, a Health Trainer is not a replacement for Lighten Up – we’re not a call centre, so we don’t have the capacity to work with as many people – but we can offer an alternative for at least some of the people who would have used Lighten Up, with one-to-one meetings, in person, for people who are looking to make lifestyle changes.
Working with more vulnerable people
New targets for us this year mean that Health Trainers are going to be focusing more on South Birmingham’s vulnerable communities. The service has always been open to everyone in South Birmingham, but this year we will start to specifically target more of the harder-to-reach communities: homeless people, people who’ve experienced domestic violence and substance misuse, and young people.
So we’ve been going out and talking directly with some of the agencies who work with vulnerable people, including Birmingham’s Homeless Services, women’s refuges, probation services and colleges, to make sure they know how to refer into Health Trainers and how we can help.
In fact, the number of Health Trainer clients who fall into the “vulnerable” category has risen anyway over the last three or four years… but in many cases we don’t find out until the client’s been with us for a while. It’s hard to admit you’re struggling, but our Health Trainers work hard to build up the sort of relationship where a client can disclose their personal circumstances and ask for help.
In one case, for example, one of our Health Trainers was working with a woman who was struggling to eat healthily. Eventually she admitted she was finding it particularly hard because she didn’t have a fridge, oven, or hob. Luckily, because South Birmingham Health Trainers are part of Gateway, they have a good knowledge of the support available, and access to an up-to-date network of extremely useful contacts. We helped her by working with her to find out what support was available to her from other agencies, as well as offering food parcels from our own foodbank and others in the city.
Because of the rising number of people who need this kind of extra help, Gateway Health Trainers have also been working with a group of GPs in Northfield, and Birmingham CAB, to offer a pilot programme called the Wellbeing Advisor Scheme. The service combines Health Trainers with social support from CAB to meet the needs of patients who are presenting with an increasing range of social issues, including debt, caring responsibilities, housing problems and social isolation. We often find that, once social issues begin to get sorted out, people are more open to lifestyle changes, so putting them together in this way makes a lot of sense.
… and a bit of good news!
Finally, Gateway Health Trainers have recently been given a boost, thanks to some new equipment: specialist scales from Benenden. These bariatric scales are designed especially for people who are morbidly obese – but they’re also extremely accurate, so we’re very pleased to be able to use them instead of standard scales. It also means that, rather than having to send people above a certain weight back to their GP to be weighed, we can now do it ourselves. Thanks, Benenden!