You might have thought that our Straight Talking Peer Educators would be having a break over the summer, but they’re busier than ever!
That’s because the Straight Talking programme isn’t just for schools — our Peer Educators also deliver to any youth groups or clubs where young people get together.
Our Peer Educators are young people who became parents as teenagers themselves. They are fully trained to work with children and young people, and they draw upon their personal experiences to raise awareness of things like child sexual exploitation (CSE), healthy and unhealthy relationships and the realities and implications of early parenthood.
The aim is to reduce teenage parenthood and sexual exploitation by allowing young people the opportunity to make better informed life choices. Overall, children and young people find the sessions great fun, but they also learn about the consequences of things like sexting, and about the difficulties of young parenthood, including the difficult practical and financial choices that parents need to make.
Think your youth group would benefit from some Straight Talking?
Schools, clubs and youth groups can book sessions and find out more about the programme by calling 0121 456 7820 and asking for Peer Educators Che or Casey, or Straight Talking Co-ordinator Marc.
Find out more
Watch Peer Educators Che and Natasha talking about what happened when they delivered the Straight Talking programme in a youth group recently…
The meetings, facilitated by Gateway and funded by the NHS South Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), have gone from being every three months to every month. Gateway supports the group committee to host a range of speakers, health and wellbeing activity sessions, entertainment and social activities.
Members of the group – which is also known as the Patient Health Forum or the Personal Health Forum – are living with, or caring for people who live with, a range of long term health conditions.
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 by giving their local CCG insights and feedback about the health services they all use.
Last week we spoke to some of the group members to find out a bit more about them, and how they feel they benefit from going to the meetings.
Dennis started coming to the Long Term Conditions Group after what he refers to as a “mental breakdown”. Now, he’s a key member of the group – a committee member with a strong social network.
Four years ago, Dennis’s GP referred him to a Gateway Health Trainer for help with weight management. However, at this point in his life Dennis was also quite mentally unwell. He’d been isolating himself at home, and worrying, to the point where he was having suicidal thoughts.
Dennis’s stress and worry problems came to a head one night and he emailed several people to ask for help. First thing next morning, his Health Trainer Richard visited him at home and arranged crisis support, including an emergency psychiatric appointment and ongoing help from a home treatment team. And later, Richard also introduced Dennis to the South Birmingham Long Term Conditions Group.
Dennis says, “I hadn’t been out for years and years. My flat was my comfort zone. But Richard explained what the group was like and what it was for. He gave me the names of the people who ran it, and I went along.
“When I first started coming, it was difficult to speak to people. I was so nervous, I would just stay quiet. Then the committee gave me a job as a ‘meet and greet’ person. The first time I did that, I remember my hands shaking so much I spilled the tea.
“But over the next couple of years my confidence really built up. Now, I can stand up at the front of the group and make announcements, introduce people and thank the speakers.” He seems surprised at himself. “I even tell jokes!”
Dennis says he likes the group because although people have health issues and can talk about them if they want to, it’s not the focus of the meetings. He says, “We all know everyone has a reason to be here. We’ve all been through something, but you don’t have to talk about it. You can concentrate on the entertainment and the discussion.”
As Dennis is talking, the meeting is finishing and a stream of friends stops by to remind him to call them or meet up later in the week.
He says, “I don’t want to be dramatic but I really believe I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this group. I haven’t had suicidal thoughts in ages. It’s a stepping stone, if you like, from having an illness to having something to look forward to.”
Membership of the Long Term Conditions Group 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 get involved, give us a call on 0121 456 7820 and ask to speak to someone about the Patient Health Forum.
Our MVP (Maternity Voices Partnership) is still going strong, with the next meeting coming up on Wednesday 1st May 2019 at Stirchley Baths.
The MVP is a team of people who meet to discuss issues related to maternity services in Birmingham and Solihull, based on their own experiences. It includes maternity professionals (like midwives and doctors) and people with direct personal experience of the service, including women who have been pregnant and given birth, and their family members.
The MVP provides feedback to help make the local systems work as well as they possibly can for everyone involved.
The Birmingham and Solihull MVP is very keen to get more people involved to give feedback from a service users’ perspective, so if you or your immediate family have had experience of the maternity system in the last couple of years, we’d love to hear from you. Mums, dads, partners and grandparents are all welcome and you can bring children to the events, too.
If you’d like to tell your maternity story and help us to give feedback that makes a difference, come along and have your voices heard!
The next meeting will be on Wednesday 1st May, 10.30am-12.30pm, at Stirchley Baths on Bournville Lane in Stirchley. Children are welcome and we can even pay travel and parking expenses.
As well as chatting about people’s experiences, and hearing from our colleagues at Bump (Birmingham & Solihull United Maternity and Newborn Partnership), we’ll have a feedback presentation from midwives at Heartlands Hospital, where we had a “Fifteen Steps For Maternity Challenge” a few weeks ago.
The Fifteen Steps challenge is a great way to give immediate feedback so that midwives and hospital staff can make simple changes to help others in the future. On March 7th a small group of us went to Heartlands Hospital to give them our first impressions (the experiences that we gathered on our first “fifteen steps” onto each ward). Since then, the hospital has been able to make some immediate changes based on our comments, and will be making further changes in the longer term. We’ll be really interested to hear how we’ve made a difference!
The Birmingham and Solihull MVP is part of a network of MVPs around the country, working together to achieve positive change, with women and their families at the heart of maternity service development.
If you’d like to join the MVP at the next meeting, or just to find out more, please give our Co-ordinator Reshma a call on 0121 456 7820.
To celebrate the first Social Prescribing Day, we wanted to share a recent story from Healthy Futures, our social prescribing service.
Social Prescribing Day aims to highlight the importance and significance of social prescribing within healthcare. Created by the Social Prescribing Network, a collaboration of doctors, colleges and the NHS, it’s a chance for services like ours to share stories about a way of working that has become a social movement.
In just over two years, our Healthy Futures “Wellbeing Navigators” have worked with over 200 people in Birmingham to support them with social and other non-medical issues. People are usually referred into the service by their GP, and then we work with them to provide a range of tailored interventions.
Those interventions might be as simple as a cup of tea and a chat, or — more often — help applying for the benefits people are entitled to, help bidding for social housing, understanding and filling in forms, calling the utilities to sort out bills, travelling with people to appointments, finding social groups people might enjoy (and going with them, if needed), and signposting to other organisations and agencies. Sometimes, as Alia’s story below illustrates, our staff are the only support workers available to listen at a time of crisis.
How Ralph helped Alia and her son to put down roots
When Wellbeing Navigator Ralph first met Alia* last summer, she and her young disabled son were living in a homeless centre after moving away from her abusive partner. Socially, they were very isolated, with no local family and few friends. Alia cared for her son 24/7 with very little respite, and told Ralph she was suffering from depression and anxiety.
Alia’s risks were recorded as:
caring responsibilities (disabled son)
Alia told Ralph she was looking for social activities so that she and her son, nearly two, could make some friends – important not just for her, but for her son’s development. And of course, she was keen to move out of the homeless centre. With support from Shelter, she had applied to move into social housing and was waiting for a decision.
Ralph was in the office one evening when he received a frantic call from Alia: her housing application had been rejected. Extremely upset, she hadn’t been able to speak to anyone. They talked and Ralph changed his plans so he could meet her the next day.
The following day, Ralph found Alia feeling very low. He explained that the next step would be to appeal against the decision, then called Shelter to arrange a visit from her support worker for the following week. Worried about her mental and physical health, he asked her to consider going to her GP. When he left, he told the Centre staff his concerns and told Alia that he would be available over the weekend if she needed him. (Later, Alia admitted to Ralph just how ill she’d felt that day, and that she had been considering self-harm, but that his friendly advice encouraged her to seek help.)
Since then, things have started to look up. Alia’s Shelter support worker and their legal team made the appeal against the social housing decision, and Ralph helped to arrange an Occupational Therapy assessment for her son as part of that appeal.
Ralph also found lots of activities for them to get out and meet people. Alia’s son likes animals, so he told them about the local nature centre and farms, which they have since enjoyed visiting. He referred them to their local Children’s Centre, and a support team helped them access free nursery care and activities. Alia’s GP surgery offered her a stress management course which she took up and really enjoyed. And, although Alia had originally refused Home-Start support, she changed her mind and began to receive support from volunteers providing temporary at-home respite.
Three months on, Ralph was overjoyed when Alia called to say the appeal had been successful. Now, they live in their own temporary accommodation. Alia’s making new friends and her son’s doing really well at nursery. They still have a long road ahead, but they’re happier and healthier – thanks to Ralph, Shelter, and her new support networks.
The latest meeting of the Birmingham and Solihull Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) took place on Thursday last week. Members of the public met up with midwives and other maternity professionals to talk about their experiences of the maternity system and discuss some of the latest developments.
MVPs are a way for service users to share their opinions of their local system and give direct feedback. It’s a way to give pregnant women, new parents and families a voice, and to give maternity professionals a “direct line” to the public, so they can test out new ideas and get feedback on recent changes. Gateway has been commissioned to organise and manage the Birmingham and Solihull MVP meetings, and part of this is to ensure they attract a good number and diverse range of participants.
The November meeting was at St Barnabas Church Centre in Erdington, and 13 service users came along, some with children, to talk to us and share their experiences.
Mary Passant, Programme Manager for Bump, talked to us about giving women a ‘Single Point of Access’ with midwives as the first point of contact. Dr Trixie McAree, professor of midwivery and maternal health at Birmingham University helped us to facilitate the event, and also talked to us about the new Personal Maternity Care Budgets (PMCBs).
Sally Giddings, Deputy Head of Midwifery at Birmingham Women’s Hospital, gave us feedback on the 15 Steps For Maternity challenge that we did at the Women’s Hospital in July. After hearing what happened on our walkabout, the hospital have already made a number of little changes, which should help to make people’s first impressions even better.
MVP Co-ordinator Sharon said, “it was a really interesting and useful meeting. Because people were able to bring their children along, it meant that more people were able to attend — but it also made for a much more informal session, which was great. It made conversations a bit easier and encouraged people to speak up more and to ask more questions.”
After the event, service users completed anonymous feedback forms. Here are a few of the comments:
“Relaxed atmosphere to enable discussion. Great topics to discuss.”
“There was somewhere for the children to come along and play. Helps a lot in the case of childcare.”
“Candid discussion. I feel listened to and appreciated views.”
“I liked the open discussion which was accessible to all.”
Join us! MVP in the new year
The next MVP meeting will be in January. We’re very keen to get more people involved to give feedback from the service users’ perspective, so if you or your immediate family have had experience of the maternity system in the last couple of years, we’d love to hear from you. Mums, dads, partners and grandparents are all welcome and you can bring children to the events, too.
Also in the new year, we’ll be holding another “15 Steps For Maternity” Challenge, this time at Heartlands Hospital. Take a walk with us around the wards and give us your immediate impressions to feed back.
If you’d like to join us for the next meeting or the 15 Steps, give Sharon Bartlett a call on 0121 456 7820 or email her on email@example.com.
Did you know that being lonely is actually harmful to physical health?
Studies show that a lack of social relationships is a big health risk1. Researchers have found that it can be as big a mortality risk as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day!
Now, the government has decided that loneliness is a problem worth tackling. In January, Theresa May appointed Tracey Crouch to lead cross-government work on loneliness, to “shine a light on the issue” and “bring an end to the acceptance of loneliness for good”. And in April, this was followed up by the launch of the “Building Connections Fund”, aimed at supporting programmes that “bring people together”.
There’s no doubt that, in this age of austerity, the Minister for Loneliness has a big job on her hands. But we’re very glad that it has become a national talking point.
Widowed older homeowners living alone with long-term health conditions.
Unmarried, middle-agers with long-term health conditions.
Younger renters with little trust and sense of belonging to their area.
Reducing social isolation in Birmingham
At Gateway we support people who fit all three of these profiles, as well as many of the other identifiers mentioned in the report, such as people with financial hardship, and people who don’t feel a connection to their neighbourhood.
Despite a lack of external funding, we are continuing to run the Healthy Futures service, which supports socially isolated people in Birmingham. GPs can refer anyone that needs non-medical help into the service, so that includes people who have issues around housing, alcohol, finances, benefits, and much more. Our Healthy Futures navigators offer a range of one-to-one help, whether that’s a cup of tea and a friendly chat to get through the day, or more complex support that requires a range of specialist help.
And for people with long term health conditions, we help to run a local Patients Health Forum. This group was set up to allow service users to give feedback on local health systems, but over the years it has also grown into quite a social club. So as well as helping with the practicalities, we make sure to really push the social side of things, making sure events are organised regularly and include food, entertainment, and plenty of time for people to chat. Most of the people who go to the Patient Health Forum fit one of the first two profiles mentioned above, and many of the forum members (or, sometimes, their carers) tell us that it provides them with vital social support.
Earlier this month, the Patient Health Forum took place in Stirchley, where we celebrated the 70th Anniversary of the NHS with entertainment from guest singer Reza, who got everyone moving.
At the first International Social Prescribing Research Conference, in June, Key Speaker Dr William Bird explained how loneliness leads to chronic stress which, via its effects on the endocrine and immune systems, enhances risk of long term conditions. He was keen to promote the concept of supporting people to find “greater value” – that is, not just telling them to do standard physical activity, but working with them to find their purpose.
And this is how we work at Gateway, because we can see that it gets results. In the case of Healthy Futures, as we explained in our own poster presentation at the conference: Healthy Futures did not fall into the trap of “doing what’s best” for patients; generally the patients led the support. Gateway believes that asking someone what their priorities are, believing them, and working with them to build self-confidence and resilience creates a programme of support that is more successful and sustainable.
It’s one thing to find people to say hello to, but it’s quite another to feel “plugged in” – to feel part of something; to feel that you’re useful and that your contribution matters. Having things in common is a great starting point. That’s why we’re keen to make sure that all the services we deliver that involve groups of people – for example Solihull Lighten Up, Peer Educators and the Maternity Voices Partnership – work well as social groups, and we encourage people to stay in touch using WhatsApp or Facebook groups, too.
We’ve known for a long time that social isolation has a big impact on health and we’re very glad this is starting to be addressed at a national level. For our part, we will continue to help people to build stronger bonds with others through a range of tailored support.
1Stats taken from the following studies:
House JS, Landis KR, Umberson D (1988) Social relationships and health. Science 241: 540–545
Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Layton JB (2010) Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review. PLoS Med 7(7): e1000316
Holt-Lunstad J, Smith TB, Baker M, Harris T, Stephenson D (2015) Loneliness and social isolation as risk factors for mortality: a meta-analytic review. Perspect Psychol Sci. 10(2):227-37
Membership of the Patient Health Forum 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 get involved, give us a call on 0121 456 7820 and ask about the Patient Health Forum.
Last week a subgroup of the Birmingham and Solihull Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) went to Birmingham Women’s Hospital to do the Fifteen Steps Challenge, and today they’re feeding back their observations at our first MVP meeting.
What is “Fifteen Steps To Maternity”?
“I can tell what kind of care my daughter is going to get within 15 steps of walking on to every new ward.” This powerful statement, from a mother whose daughter needed frequent inpatient stays, inspired the development of the Fifteen Steps Challenge. The Challenge focuses on seeing care through a patient or carer’s eyes, and exploring their first impressions.
We decided to use the Fifteen Steps For Maternity toolkit to kick off our MVP work because it’s a simple, practical and engaging idea that can have an immediate effect on services.
Our MVP subgroup visited Birmingham Women’s Hospital and looked at three wards — ante-natal, delivery and post-delivery — to make observations and feed back to staff with their first impressions. Over the next few months we hope to be able to do the same thing at the other hospitals in the region. (Next stop Good Hope – let us know if you’d like to take part.)
Watch the videos below to meet some of the team who took the Challenge, and hear some of the examples of the observations they made. As service user Catherine points out, “little things make a huge difference when you’re about to give birth”!
Catherine is a maternity services user
Anne-Marie also gave her views as a service user
Kookie and Sue
Kookie and Sue are midwives at Birmingham Women’s Hospital
The first meeting of BSol MVP is taking place today, Thursday 12th July, but we’re still keen to involve more service users. (And not just mums! Dads, grandparents and other family members are all very welcome too.) If you’ve used maternity services in Birmingham or Solihull over the last few years, give our MVP Co-ordinator Sharon Bartlett a ring on 0121 456 7820 to ask about being part of the MVP.
Do you have recent experience of maternity services in Birmingham or Solihull?
We are putting together Birmingham and Solihull’s Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP): a team of people who provide feedback about their local maternity system. The panel will include maternity professionals (like midwives and doctors) and people with direct personal experience of the service.
If you have recent experience of maternity services in Birmingham or Solihull, we’d like to invite you and your family to get involved. We want as many people as possible to have their voices and opinions heard – not just women, but their partners and other family members, too.
We’ll be collecting your feedback and leading more discussions so that you can share your ideas about how local maternity services could be improved. The idea is to design and develop services with real people in mind.
The first meeting will be in July and we will hold an induction for all volunteers before it takes place, so you’ll be fully prepared. Expenses will be paid, including travel, parking and childcare costs.
If you’re interested in finding out more, please contact your local MVP Co-ordinator Sharon Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0121 456 7820.
If you work with people who have recent experience of local maternity services, or if you’d just like to help us spread the word, you can share this blog post, and there’s even an A5 leaflet you can print and share. Download the A5 leaflet [pdf, 192kb].
Maternity Voices Partnerships are being set up all over the country and we’re excited about going out into our local communities and finding people to take part in ours. Sharon, our Co-ordinator, is a former Pregnancy Outreach Worker so she’s got some great experience and knowledge of local networks.
As we finish the last few Pre-Diabetes courses we’ve been running, results are starting to come in from the most recent participants. And – as with previous course attendees – we’re really proud of their results!
Since the pilot scheme in October 2015, which led to the programme being rolled out across the country, hundreds of people across Birmingham and Solihull have completed a Gateway Pre-Diabetes course.
So how does Gateway compare with national Pre-Diabetes programme delivery?
Really well, as it turns out!
Our conversion rate – that is, the number of people referred to us who actually started a course – is 68%. That’s nearly twice as high as the national average of 37.5%*.
Why? We think more people make a start with Gateway because we work closely with GPs, so they feel able to recommend us personally. Once someone is referred, as well as getting leaflets from their GP, they’ll also get a call from us to explain exactly what the course is about, and what’s in it for them.
Retention rate is one of the main measurements of success used by the National Diabetes Prevention Programme and, when the national programme was rolled out, the expected retention rate (from registration to completion) was 20%**. Ours is 78%.
Of the 858 people who started, 711 (83%) attended most of the sessions, and 665 people (78%) completed the course.
Why? Again, we think this is down to the personal touch. Attendees meet in person, in small groups led by an enthusiastic tutor, and the course has many interactive elements. Like all of Gateway’s services, our Pre-Diabetes course is client-led; we give people the facts and tools they need, take the time to find out more about their personal circumstances, and support them to find an approach that will work for them in the longer term.
The course has 13 sessions, but these are spread over seven months because research shows that a long term sustained approach is more likely to achieve behaviour change.
Social interaction, too, is a big part of the Gateway model. We know that when people with similar conditions get together and start talking about their experiences, they receive extra benefits that they wouldn’t get from making changes on their own. They are happier to talk about things like weight loss and physical exercise without feeling judged, and they inspire each other.
We’ve seen people who meet on the course start their own walking groups, share healthy recipes and exercise tips, and start good habits that spread throughout whole families!
Another key indicator of success for a pre-diabetes programme is weight loss, and we found that 46% of our attendees had lost weight by the end of the course, with 45% of those who lost weight losing more than 5% of their total body weight.
Finally, the most obvious measurement is the HbA1c reduction. Of the readings we’ve had back to date, 76% have shown a reduction, and 64% of those who reduced are no longer at risk of diabetes.
The Gateway Pre-Diabetes course is a great example of the Gateway service model. We focus on where the need is, and use our knowledge and networks to recruit not just the right number of people, but the people who need us. We use a data-driven approach to explore ways of delivering the service and we use outcomes based on individuals’ needs which don’t just get us the results that commissioners want, but improve satisfaction and retention rates.
Saving money for the NHS
Pre-diabetes courses are essential to save money for the NHS over the coming years by preventing what is, in fact, a really costly condition.
Annual diabetes outpatient costs, which include the cost of medications and monitoring supplies, are estimated at between £300 and £370 per patient. What’s more, the cost of prescribing medication for complications of diabetes is around three to four times the cost of prescribing diabetes medication. Annual inpatient care, to treat short and long term complications of diabetes, is estimated at between £1,800 and £2,500 per patient***.
Let’s use the example of a man who becomes diabetic at 60. In Birmingham, he is likely to live to 77, so he could have 17 diabetic years ahead of him. 17 x £300=£5,100. And that’s at a minimum – if his condition is poorly managed or he develops complications, the costs could rocket to over £20,000.
The cost of our intervention is as little as £270 per head, and that’s a one-off cost.
Sure, this social model has a slightly higher cost than one based on remote consultations, thanks to things like room hire, but we think it’s worth it, because it clearly brings better results. It also brings added value in the form of qualitative savings like the extra confidence and ability to engage in more social and physical activity.
Since Gateway began in 2006, our tag line has been “Changing Lives, Changing Services”.
To change services, we have to play an influencing and sometimes challenging role, sharing evidence of the need for change. That’s why we have always seen it as part of our responsibility to gather views from service users, ensuring that what they say is heard by decision-makers and other people of influence.
And that’s why we’re delighted to announce that Gateway will be providing Birmingham and Solihull’s Maternity Voices Partnership.
A Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) is a team of people who work together to review and contribute to the development of their Local Maternity System (LMS). Gateway will be bringing together regular panels of service users (people with experience of maternity services, and their families) and service delivery representatives (like commissioners, midwives and doctors) to ensure that a wide range of voices are heard.
Why Gateway? Well, having run the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS) for over a decade, we’re ideally placed to deliver – if you’ll excuse the pun – the Maternity Voices work. We know that there is often a lack of awareness of services in the places where those services are needed the most, so we’re particularly keen to be part of a national programme that wants to build better relationships with hard-to-reach communities, and hear from as many service users, from as many different backgrounds, as possible.
Through POWS, we have already established strong connections within those communities that are known to have a poor take-up of services. We also have strong connections with midwives, Children’s Centres, Social Services, housing providers and other third sector organisations who work with pregnant women – particularly in areas of multiple deprivation. Gateway’s staff are often from these communities themselves, and are experienced in working with and encouraging people who don’t typically come forward.
Gateway’s role will be to form the MVP, finding the right people to be part of it, ensure the quarterly meetings cover topics that are of relevance to service users. Then, we’ll provide the Partnership’s feedback to the LMS Board.
We will soon be advertising for service users to get involved, we’ll be providing training to prepare them for the first meeting in July. If you have recent experience of Birmingham and Solihull’s maternity services, and you’re interested in finding out more, please contact our MVP Co-ordinator Sharon Bartlett at email@example.com.
This MVP will be part of the new Birmingham and Solihull United Maternity and Newborn Partnership (BUMP), which has been set up as a result of the National Maternity Review (Better Births). We’re very much looking forward to being part of project BUMP, giving as many people as possible a voice, and bringing the ambitions of the National Maternity Review to life.
(The photos on this page were all taken by, or of, our Pregnancy Outreach Workers.)