Author: Emma Wright

Getting ready for a smoke-free Christmas: Helen’s story

Up until a few weeks ago, Helen*, 50, was a heavy smoker. She has asthma and, having smoked all her life, she constantly suffers from chest infections.

Now, with the help of the Solihull Stop Smoking Service (part of the Solihull Lifestyle Service), she’s quit smoking – just in time for Christmas!

Smoke free in time for Christmas

Helen’s motivation to give up smoking came from her family. Her daughter stopped smoking when she went on holiday recently and managed to do it ‘cold turkey’. Her sister quit smoking this year with the help of the Solihull Stop Smoking service. And she’s a carer for her dad, who stopped years ago and is always asking her to try and give up.

Now that Helen was the only smoker in the family, she decided she had no more excuses, and contacted the Solihull Stop Smoking service.

Stop Smoking Practitioner
Karen Goldingay

With support from her trained Stop Smoking Practitioner Karen (pictured, right), Helen decided to use nicotine patches, inhalator and gum to help her quit.

For the first few weeks, she really struggled and, at tricky times, found herself having the odd cigarette, but she didn’t let it get her down. She was determined to keep trying because she wanted to become completely smoke free.

Now, Helen’s managed to go four whole weeks without a ciggie. She’s incredibly proud of her achievements so far and has started to see how much she prefers a smoke-free life, just like her family told her she would.

In the run up to Christmas she’s been able to go shopping and browse for hours without having to keep going outside to smoke in the cold. As well as having more money to spend on food and presents, she’s enjoying only having to take her phone and purse with her when she goes out. But most importantly, she’s excited that there won’t be a single smoker in the house when everyone comes over for Christmas dinner!

She’s also feeling the benefits physically already, too. Last week, she had a cold, which would usually make her very unwell. Previously, even minor colds would go to her chest and leave her poorly for weeks. This time, her breathing is easier and she’s been able to function just fine.

Helen says, “I know it’s early in my quit attempt but I’ve already achieved more than I ever have before. I’m determined never to smoke again!”

Free support from the Solihull Stop Smoking Service

Anyone who lives in Solihull, or has a Solihull GP, can get FREE one-to-one help and support from the Solihull Stop Smoking Service (part of the Solihull Lifestyle Service).

Call free on 0800 599 9880Expert support from local stop smoking services gives people the best chance of success. In Solihull, this expert support is provided by NCSCT certified Stop Smoking Practitioners, who offer a one-to-one service. As well as information and access to stop smoking medications, our practitioners provide advice, support and encouragement during regular phone consultations and text messages.

Live in Solihull, or have a Solihull GP? Call 0800 599 9880 or complete the online referral form and start your quit journey today!

Stop smoking – start doing so much more this Stoptober

Stoptober is back! The mass quit event, now in its tenth year, is calling on smokers to join the 2.3 million others who have made a quit attempt with the campaign since its launch. If you make it to 28 days smoke free, you are five times more likely to quit for good.

Over 6 million adults in England still smoke, and it remains the leading cause of premature death, with almost 75,000 preventable deaths a year. A new nationwide survey of 2,000 current smokers released last month has found that nearly half (45%) have been smoking more since the first lockdown began.

If you are a smoker, quitting is one of the best things you can do for your health, allowing you to start moving better, breathe more easily and save money. Join the thousands of others and start your quitting journey this October. Just search ‘Stoptober’ for more information and free tools to help you quit.

Free support from the Solihull Stop Smoking Service

Anyone who lives in Solihull, or has a Solihull GP, can get FREE one-to-one help and support from the Solihull Stop Smoking Service (part of the Solihull Lifestyle Service).

Public Health England states that expert support from local stop smoking services gives people the best chance of success. In Solihull, this expert support is provided by NCSCT certified Stop Smoking Practitioners, who offer a one-to-one service. As well as information and access to stop smoking medications, our practitioners provide advice, support and encouragement during regular phone consultations and text messages.

Live in Solihull, or have a Solihull GP? Call 0800 599 9880 or complete the online referral form and start your quit journey today!

More resources for Solihull GPs and other organisations

If you’d like to promote Stoptober at your GP practice, community venue, or place of work, the following co-branded Stoptober / Solihull Lifestyle Service resources are available:

Getting the full picture to offer full support

Across Birmingham, the city’s Early Help system is still giving thousands of families and children vital help and support. Below, you can read the story of just one of those families.

What is Early Help?

Originally set up by Birmingham Children’s Partnership as part of their COVID-19 response, the Early Help system allows teachers, social workers, housing workers (and others) to refer families and young adults to one of ten specialist teams based across the city. These Early Help teams work with families to find out what they need, and then give them extra support, including emergency food and financial help.

In Edgbaston, where many families are living in temporary accommodation, including hotels, the Early Help service is led by Gateway Family Services. We have worked with nearly 400 families since the service began last year, providing food parcels, emergency funds, and connections to local services that can offer longer term help.

Case study: the Maier family*

The Maier family were referred to Early Help Edgbaston by a Barnado’s housing worker in the summer of 2021. Dad Denis, mum Maria and their teenage son Stefan* were living in temporary accommodation – a single room at a hotel – and although they were receiving help from Barnado’s, the housing worker felt that they needed further support.

The referral indicated that the family’s status is ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ (NRPF), meaning that they are subject to immigration control and can’t claim any mainstream benefits or housing help. The housing worker had also mentioned they were short of food, and that there were health issues, although it wasn’t clear at first what this meant.

A member of the Early Help team called the family to find out more and, although Denis had very limited English, they managed to get a better picture of what was happening.

Denis explained that he had moved to the UK from Romania a couple of years ago. Upon arrival, he had successfully applied for a National Insurance Number and started working at construction sites, and was joined by wife Maria and 18-year-old Stefan at the start of 2021. He also mentioned that Stefan is disabled and that Maria looks after him at home.

However, soon after the family’s arrival, things had taken a turn for the worse.

Denis’s National Insurance number had been used by someone else illegally, and this, combined with the language barrier, made it very difficult to apply for settled status. Having missed their chance, the family were left with No Recourse to Public Funds.

What’s more, Denis had been injured, meaning he was no longer able to work, and Maria was now caring for both her son and her husband. During the conversation, Denis expressed a lot of concern for his wife and mentioned that she was suffering from back pain. It took some digging before we realised that Stefan is severely physically disabled, but didn’t have a wheelchair. Maria had been carrying him around the hotel room.

The Early Help Edgbaston team jumped into action, making referrals to various health services for Denis and Maria, and to the council’s Occupational Health service for Stefan so that he could be assessed for a wheelchair. They also referred Denis to the Community Law Centre for support with his legal challenge for National Insurance fraud. Finally, they arranged food parcels and some emergency funds. At this stage, the family felt they were getting all they help they needed so, with their consent, the case was closed.

In September, however, the Maiers were re-referred, this time by someone from the Big Issue legal support team. Although Denis is making a legal appeal, with help from the Central Law Society, the family still needs a bit more help. So Early Help Edgbaston is now working with local charity Karis to deliver a joined-up community support package. Early Help Edgbaston is part of Gateway Family Services, which has a family support worker and access to interpreters, who will help build a much clearer assessment of the family’s needs. Together, they will help the Maiers to access further help with housing and finance, as well as linking in with existing GP support.

More information

If you are a family in need of support, or an organisation helping families in the Edgbaston locality, please visit the Early Help Edgbaston pages on our website, call Early Help Edgbaston on 0121 456 7821 or email to talk to our team.

*All the family’s names have been changed

Social Prescribing case study: changing circumstances

Every so often, we highlight case studies from our Social Prescribing Link Workers.

Our Link Workers work with GPs across Birmingham and Solihull to provide social and non-medical support for patients. Their role is that of connector: working with people to help them identify their own needs, and then putting them in touch with support services that can help them in the longer term.

Because a Link Worker can spend weeks talking, listening and building a relationship with a patient, they sometimes find that people’s needs go beyond what was disclosed to their GP. This was the case when Link Worker Abeda took on a case referred by a Balsall Heath GP, which mentioned only that the patient needed help with a benefits application.

Changing support for changing circumstances: Yasmin’s story

When Yasmin (not her real name) was referred to the Social Prescribing Link Worker service, she was allocated to Abeda (pictured). Yasmin’s referral, which came from her GP surgery, mentioned that she would like some general advice on benefits, so Abeda gave her a call to find out more.

During their first conversation, Abeda asked Yasmin to tell her as much as possible about her situation, to make sure she could give her all-round support. Often, things come up in these initial chats that might not have been mentioned in the referral – and sometimes, it can help the person just to know they have someone to talk to.

Yasmin, who’s in her 30s, told Abeda that she was having some difficulties with her benefit claims, because there had been some changes in her circumstances.

Until recently, she explained, she had been the sole carer for her mum, who had cancer. Sadly, her mum passed away last year, so Yasmin now lives alone. She also has some physical health problems of her own – issues with her legs that mean she is now unable to work. So, she wanted to make sure she was claiming the correct benefits, and asked Abeda to help her with applications for employment support allowance and universal credit.

They made the claim together, making sure the authorities had all the correct information, and that Yasmin understood all the related evidence that would need to be submitted.

Over the few weeks that Abeda supported Yasmin, she could see that her health was deteriorating, and that she was finding it more and more difficult to care for herself. When Yasmin told Abeda that she had slipped and fallen trying to have a bath, Abeda asked if she would think about getting a carer of her own to help her around the house. She agreed, so together they applied to Occupational Therapy for an assessment, and also looked at local care agencies to see if there was one that might be able to help.

Within a few weeks, she had had an assessment, and together they had found a care service Yasmin was happy with. Now, carers from Sevacare visit her three times a week to help her at home and, depending on the outcome of the Occupational Therapy assessment, she may also be able to get additional support and equipment.

Yasmin has continued to submit sick notes to support her benefits claim, but she is still waiting to hear the results of the application. Because she has less money coming in than before, she’s finding it harder to pay bills, so Abeda helped her to get a discount from Severn Trent, as part of their scheme for people with a low household income.

Abeda hopes that Yasmin’s benefit claim will be accepted soon, but until then she’s continuing to chase it on her behalf, and to support Yasmin while she waits. Yasmin has said she would have been lost without the service, especially during such a difficult time, and tells Abeda she is very grateful for giving her so many options.

Social Prescribing case study: Kurdish connections

Throughout the pandemic, our Social Prescribing Link Workers have continued to support people – usually patients referred by their GP – with social or other non-medical issues. This is the latest in a series of blog posts highlighting their work; you can read more Link Worker case studies here.

The job of the Link Workers is to help people make connections: to help them navigate the city’s statutory services, to put them in touch with specialist advice and support, and to suggest groups and other activities that might help them improve their health and wellbeing. If a Link Worker can’t help, they will know someone who can!

Osman (not his real name), a Kurdish man living in Birmingham, knew what he needed – but had so far been unable to navigate the system, or even communicate his needs to his GP fully, due to the language barrier.

Creating confidence and connections: Osman’s story

“Osman” was referred to the Social Prescribing service by his GP surgery. However, although he had multiple needs, he doesn’t speak English, so wasn’t able to communicate them in detail.

He was allocated to Sadaf (pictured), a Link Worker based in Small Heath. The first thing Sadaf did was to contact a local interpreting agency that specialises in patient liaison.

During a three-way call with Sadaf, Osman and a Kurdish interpreter, Osman told Sadaf he had three main issues.

Firstly, problems with his physical health mean that Osman has difficulty with steps and using the bathroom at home. He asked how to access equipment to help him get around the house. This was clearly Osman’s most urgent issue. He said that his physical problems affect his mental health, which impacts his day-to-day life, and described feeling stripped of his independence.

Sadaf explained that Osman would need to be assessed by the Council’s Occupational Therapy department to find out if he was eligible for equipment. For this to happen, he would need to be referred, and he readily agreed to this.

Next, he said he was struggling to keep up gas and electricity payments. He told Sadaf he would like to change to a pre-paid meter but, because of the language barrier, he felt unable to call the utilities company to arrange it. This, too, was causing him a lot of concern.

Sadaf assured Osman that all the utilities companies have interpreters, and that they would be pleased to help him. He was reassured and said he felt a lot more confident about calling them.

Finally, Osman said he wanted to find a solicitor to help him with a medical negligence case. He reiterated that his physical health was at the core of his problems, and explained that it had deteriorated during a hospital admission. He felt he had not been medicated correctly during his stay, and that this had left him immobile. PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) had recommended seeking legal advice, but he had been unable to find a solicitor himself.

Sadaf explained that Link Workers cannot give legal advice or recommendations, but said she would try and connect him to a Kurdish community service that can.

After the phonecall, Sadaf made the referral to Occupational Therapy, and then began the search for more specific help. However, after hours of online research and phonecalls, she found that support for the Kurdish community in Birmingham is limited. Instead, a Community Connector at Family Action, which works with hundreds of groups and services, said they would work with Osman in the longer term to arrange further support that would help with his claim.

Occupational Therapy have since contacted Osman and, although his referral has been received, there is a backlog due to the pandemic. He will be assessed, but it could take a while.

Despite the setbacks, Osman has told Sadaf he is already feeling happier because someone reached out to him and offered to work through issues together. Although he understands that it will be a lengthy process, and that this is just the start of his journey, the reassurance and guidance that Sadaf was able to give him has already helped a lot.

Digital Literacy Workers needed in south Birmingham

We’re pleased to announce that Gateway Family Services is one of three community anchor organisations leading a new Digital Literacy project in South Birmingham. Together with Northfield Community Partnership and Age UK Birmingham, we will be ensuring that older people will have access to a digital lending library – a bank of laptops which come with data enabled – and plenty of training and ongoing support.

Now, the project is looking for two Digital Literacy Workers to help deliver that support.

Northfield Community Partnership, Age UK Birmingham and Gateway worked in partnership to set up the scheme after identifying a lack of digital literacy in the constituencies of Edgbaston and Northfield. Through our work delivering the Neighbourhood Network Schemes, we have found that lots of people not only have no digital device or data, but also a lack of knowledge and no access to help.

So the aim of the project is to help people in these two south Birmingham constituencies build greater resilience to digital illiteracy, and then to use outcomes and learnings from this project to inform the wider work of the ten Neighbourhood Network Schemes across Birmingham.

Leading the project is Digital Literacy Co-ordinator Pauline Roche, who has a wealth of experience with digital literacy projects in the city. She will be joined by two Digital Literacy Workers who will help to develop and implement the scheme in Edgbaston and Northfield – and the project is recruiting for those right now.

Think you could be a Digital Literacy Worker?

If you have enthusiasm for digital literacy, enjoy helping older people to develop their skills, and would like to be instrumental in building more opportunities for digital engagement in Birmingham, there are roles available for two Digital Literacy Workers. One will be employed by Northfield Community Partnership and one by Age UK Birmingham.

To find out more about the project, contact Pauline Roche via email at

To view the job and find out how to apply, go to the Age UK Birmingham website: Digital Literacy Project Support Worker(s) x 2 – (Fixed term 1 year Contract)

Edgbaston NNS and Early Help Edgbaston – Focus on Assets: Love Your Neighbour

The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme newsletter goes out to members every two months, and we’re delighted to report that it now includes the latest news from ENNS’s sister service, Early Help Edgbaston.

Early Help is the Birmingham Children’s Partnership model of connected support for families and children across Birmingham. In Edgbaston, this work is led by Gateway Family Services, and so the team naturally works closely with the Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network Scheme.

In each edition of the ENNS newsletter, we showcase great community assets within the Edgbaston constituency. So for this issue, we asked the Early Help team to get involved – and they told us all about the Love Your Neighbour food bank.

Love Your Neighbour helps Early Help Edgbaston to reach more families

By Marc Baggott, Edgbaston Early Help Coordinator

Love Your Neighbour, part of Gas Street Church, started out as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. I asked Martha Goshawk, the Love Your Neighbour Co-ordinator, to explain how the project started.

“As a church we wanted to play our part in our local community and provide practical support,” Martha says. “We started small; delivering emergency food parcels and providing a telephone befriending service. Since then we have grown and expanded our work and reach and now run a foodbank, provide a financial advocacy service, have opened a CAP Debt Centre and CAP Job Club and work with children and families. We’re also just about to open our food pantry called The Community Shop, and a new cafe and soft play centre. In all we do, we want to bring light and hope to the city and that’s what Love Your Neighbour is all about.”

I first learnt about the Love Your Neighbour Foodbank just after Christmas. The start of the new year is when lots of Early Help clients have food needs, partly because families tend to spend what little they have at Christmas, but mainly because support services are reduced over the holiday period. I met Martha at the Food Justice Network meeting, and she helped Edgbaston Early Help to register so that we could distribute food parcels through their food bank.

Since then, we have come to rely on Love Your Neighbour and the Gas Street St. Luke’s team. As well as helping us to meet the most urgent needs – distributing food to families living in temporary accommodation in Edgbaston and Harborne – we have been able to expand on our collaborative work by helping to deliver Family Fun Sessions directly to families.

Martha explains, “Recently we’ve loved going into the Cobden Hotel and running craft sessions for children and families currently living there. From painting and bracelet making, to making vast quantities of slime and hundreds of biscuits, we’ve loved getting to know people, spread the word about Love Your Neighbour and just having fun! One girl described it as “the best day ever” and we couldn’t ask for a better report than that!”

I totally agree with Martha that the craft activities were very impactful – the families were engaged and happy to be part of something. It’s a great example of how we can build on our connections to reach more families and provide wider support. I hope Early Help can continue to work with Martha and the team on future projects.

For more information about the Love Your Neighbour project, visit the Gas Street Church website.

If you’d like to subscribe to the Edgbaston NNS and Early Help newsletter, and get it straight to your inbox every two months, simply fill in your details on the newsletter signup page.

Edgbaston NNS – Focus on Assets: Your Local Pantry at the Haven

The Edgbaston Neighbourhood Network is here to help all of Edgbaston’s community assets with everything from grants and funding applications to networking and promotion. That’s why Community Connectors Deb and Natalie are always on the lookout for new community projects to meet, learn from, and support! Every two months, they speak to one of our assets in depth and feature them in the the ENNS Newsletter. (You may remember the Sar Ramz Cooking Club from our December newsletter and Digikick from February.)

For the April newsletter, Deb and Natalie visited a new food pantry in Quinton.

Focus on Assets: Your Local Pantry

By Deb Ufton and Natalie Tichareva

Jade and Kerry at Your Local Pantry

For the last month, the Haven Centre and B32 Community CIC have been working behind the scenes to launch a food pantry, called ‘Your Local Pantry’. So we went along on a sunny Friday afternoon to find out more!

The Haven Centre is run by Rachel and her husband Simon, with a small team of staff and volunteers, and was already the first port of call for many local people who needed support or advice. However, when Covid hit, the team realised it was an opportunity to show the community that they were there for them. As Rachel said, “we couldn’t close the doors on people when they needed us the most”. So, for the last year, the activities and support the Haven offers have changed and grown according to local people’s needs.

Realising that there was an increased need for food, Rachel and Simon got together with Kerry and Becky from another popular Quinton community group, B32 Community CIC, and came up with the idea of a food pantry, to be based at the Haven Centre. They contacted Shabir Jivraj, Project Officer for the national organisation ‘Your Local Pantry’, and he helped them to set up.

The ‘pantry’ model enables people to access help by becoming members and paying a very small amount for food: for £4.50, members receive shopping worth between £20 and £30. The idea is to make sure no-one feels any sense of shame in accessing the essentials they need.

Your Local Pantry at the Haven has been running quietly behind the scenes for the last few Fridays, but now Rachel, Simon, Kerry and Becky hope that more people in the community who need help with food will sign up and become pantry members.


When we went along, pantry staff and volunteers from the Haven and B32 Community had created a welcoming environment for visitors, with Bob Marley playing on the radio and all who entered being offered a drink and a chat before accessing the pantry.

A local resident told us, “It’s a great thing! I came down during lockdown and it’s really helped. I love it so much, I’ve brought my mom too.”

It’s obvious that Your Local Pantry is a perfect complement for the other activities held at the Haven. The atmosphere at the Centre is happy and peaceful, and there’s something for everyone. In-person meetups of the long-established Older Adults Group, Youth Club, and Women’s Group are slowly being re-introduced; last week the Haven held a Stay and Play and this week they’re going to have a ‘pop up lunch’ at the Pantry.

Jade, who works at Your Local Pantry at the Haven, told us, “Work doesn’t feel like work. I first started to come to the Haven through the Women’s Group, and I really enjoyed it so I became a volunteer.”

From volunteering, Jade then became a member of staff, something which has helped her build confidence and recognise her skills. “Before I found the Haven I was in such a bad place, but I didn’t really realise I was in a bad place,” she says, “and I can see that in many of the people we help.”

We loved visiting Your Local Pantry and think it’s a great initiative, so we hope lots of people in the Edgbaston Neighbourhood community will sign up as members and make the most of it.

Your Local Pantry will be available on Fridays, 12 – 2pm, at the Haven, on Rilstone Road in Quinton. For more information, and details on how to sign up, contact the Haven Centre on 0121 681 0388, or simply keep your eyes peeled on social media – visit the Haven Centre on Facebook or B32 Community CIC on Facebook.

If you’re interested in finding out more about Your Local Pantry nationally, or setting up your own, visit the Your Local Pantry website, or contact

Services working hand in hand

The job of Social Prescribing Link Workers is to listen to what people want and need, and then to direct them to local groups and services that can help them achieve their goals.

Sometimes, those services are also delivered by Gateway!

Glenn is a Social Prescribing Link Worker who works in the North Solihull area. So when she met a patient who needed some help with her physical activity and eating habits, who better to direct her to than the Solihull Lifestyle Service?

Social Prescribing Case Study: Pam

Glenn, a Link Worker in North Solihull
Pam* was referred to the Social Prescribing Link Workers service in January 2021, because her GP felt that she would benefit from someone listening and giving her support.

Link Worker Glenn contacted Pam straight away and they arranged a time to talk over the phone.

The following week, Glenn called Pam and they spoke for quite some time. Pam explained she has a long term health condition, and also suffers from arthritis which causes her a lot of pain. Her follow up appointments at the hospital had been pushed back due to Covid, which was causing her to feel very low. Although Pam lives with her husband, he works during the day and she told Glenn she gets very anxious on her own.

Feeling down

As they chatted, it was clear the pain Pam was enduring really got her down, and this had caused her to stop doing the things she enjoyed. She said her eating habits were poor as she didn’t have an appetite and, although her husband often tried to encourage her to go out for a little walk or sit in the garden, she hadn’t been out of the house for a year.

Glenn told Pam about the Solihull Lifestyle Service, explaining that they could offer her support and advice about diet and exercise, and she agreed to be referred to them. She was allocated a Wellbeing Advisor called April, who would be able to start working with her in a couple of weeks’ time. In the meantime, Glenn and Pam talked about exercises Pam might be able to do. She mentioned that she had a treadmill at home but didn’t use it.

Glenn shared her own experiences of arthritis. She explained how she had forced herself to try and walk each day, and had found this boosted her mental health. Pam said she felt better having someone to talk to and said she would start using her treadmill.

April, a Wellbeing Advisor with the Solihull Lifestyle Service
The next time they spoke, Pam had started using the treadmill every couple of days for 15 minutes at a time, and had started eating small, regular meals, thanks to April’s encouragement. However, she told Glenn she wanted to stop taking anti-depressants. Glenn advised her to continue until she spoke to her GP, but also told her about St Germain’s, a service that uses a cognitive behaviour approach to depression and anxiety. Pam said she was willing to give it a go and consented to a referral.

Feeling the benefits

The next time they spoke, there had been a complete turnaround. Pam was eating regular meals and exercising nearly every day. Her GP had lowered her anti-depressant dosage so she could gradually stop taking them. John from St Germain’s had sent information about CBT and exercises for her to follow, and Pam was feeling the benefits already.

In their last conversation, Pam told Glenn that both her husband and son had noticed a difference in her wellbeing. In her own words, she had “stopped feeling sorry for herself”, and said she was even looking forward to doing some gardening!

She told Glenn she would always be grateful for the support she received from all three services.

*Pam’s name has been changed

Hand in hand

As you can see, Gateway’s approach is not about duplicating support, it’s about working hand in hand. Social Prescribing is about listening, finding out what someone needs, and linking them to it. The Solihull Lifestyle advisers are the experts in helping people to eat and exercise healthily.

As well as our own services, we are constantly making new contacts with others, widening our network so that we can direct people to the most suitable local support, and “plugging people in” to their community in the most effective way.

If you run a service in Birmingham or Solihull that would like to take referrals from Link Workers, get in touch to make sure we have your details.

Dennis chatting with Leslie and Keith

In memory of Dennis Hayes

We were very sad to hear about the passing of Dennis Hayes, a member of the Patient Health Forum (the South Birmingham Long Term Conditions Group that Gateway facilitates on behalf of Birmingham and Solihull CCG). We understand that he died suddenly at home, of a suspected heart attack, at the beginning of November.

We first met Dennis in 2014, when his GP referred him to the Health Trainer service for help with his weight. He and his Health Trainer Richard had a good rapport and built up a solid relationship, staying in touch even when Dennis’ need for Health Trainer support ended.

It was Richard who suggested that Dennis might like to join the Patient Health Forum, and encouraged him to go along – which he did, becoming a regular attendee and eventually committee member. When he chatted with us in 2019, he told us that joining the group had helped him to build his confidence and reduce his anxiety.

Our thoughts go out to those who knew Dennis, especially his friends at the Forum.

A statement from the committee

Pauline Hartley shared these words on behalf of the Patient Health Forum committee:

Dennis had been a member of the PHF for some years, going from a quiet and nervous newcomer to a valued mainstay of the committee.

He learned to share what he saw as the benefits of the group because he wanted to help members gain the confidence that he felt he had done over the time he had attended. He eventually joined the committee because he felt he needed to give something back to the group that had supported him. The committee are very grateful for his hard work over the years, often in uncertain times. He sometimes surprised even himself in the way that his confidence had grown and, although we knew him as a quiet man, he could be forceful and determined if he felt it necessary.

Those of us that were lucky enough to know him outside of the group knew him to be caring, courteous, generous, practical and an interesting friend. He enjoyed going to National Trust properties, where his knowledge of history made him an ideal companion. He liked music and theatre and his wry sense of humour often lightened a meal or coffee out, something he enjoyed doing. He liked to look after his home, where he had a collection of paperweights amongst his interests. He also liked to socialise and keep as fit as possible with his friends at the gym.

He cared deeply for the people in the group and the people from Gateway and relished being able to signpost anyone towards help. He was always ready to chat and fetch that ever important cuppa.

He battled with ill health with fortitude and wasn’t afraid to ask for, or take, help. He had come to understand the complex ups and downs of physical and mental health and so was a great help to people who appreciated his empathy.

He will be missed as a PHF member and friend and everyone’s lives will be poorer for his sudden passing.

RIP Dennis.

If you knew Dennis and would like to share your thoughts or memories, you can add a comment below and it will appear underneath this article.