Author: Joanne Harper

Health Promotion Officer Vacancy

We have an opportunity for a Health and Wellbeing Promotion Officer who will support our Solihull Lifestyle Service by building strong and lasting links with support and referral organisations within Solihull, agreeing referral pathways and ensuring partners can easily access appropriate support for service users.

Position: Health and Wellbeing Promotion Officer

Location: Solihull

Hours: Full time

Salary: £20,000 per annum

Contract: Fixed term to end of March 2022 (with potential for extension beyond this)

Benefits: The provision of workplace wellbeing support and activities, flexible working and a range of family friendly policies and subsidised parking.

Closing Date: Sunday 1st August (midnight)

Interview Date: TBC

The Role

The Health and Wellbeing Promotion Officer will work closely with the Solihull Lifestyle Service Lead to source and engage partner organisations across Solihull to generate inbound referrals to the service.  They will make initial links and agree referral pathways, escalating discussion to the Service Lead as appropriate.

The Promotion Officer will also identify and flag potential partnerships that can add value to the Lifestyles offer through cross working and providing holistic support to service users.  They will form a key part of the team, working alongside Advisors to arrange and manage events to promote the service to both professionals and partners as well as members of the Solihull community and potential service users.

Duties and key responsibilities include:

  • Source and promote the service to new and existing partners and referral agencies including Primary Care and NHS professionals, Local Authority partners and community organisations
  • Agree referral pathways where appropriate to ensure easy access to the service from service users
  • Identify potential venues for delivery of group and one to one activity
  • Ensure promotional materials reflect offer and supplies are available for use
  • Utilise Social Media channels to promote the service

About You

We are looking for an energetic communicator with excellent engagement and interpersonal skills with the ability to communicate effectively with a range of partners and service users to actively promote the service.

You will have:

  • Experience of health or service promotion to a range of partners and organisations
  • Knowledge of VCSE organisations within the area
  • Good administration and record keeping skills
  • Good IT and Microsoft word packages (spreadsheets etc.) skills
  • The ability to use social media, ICT and digital platforms competently
  • The ability to manage time and prioritize own workload

Health Promoter Solihull JD

Application Form GFS May 2021

Instructions for Completing the Application Form May 2021

Alternatively you can request an application form by calling Maxine Brown on 0121 456 7820 or by emailing recruitment@gatewayfs.org

Family Support Worker Vacancies

We have an opportunity for a Family Support Worker to fully support the Early Help Assessment plan and delivery that responds to children, young people and their family’s needs with the objective of achieving the best family outcomes.

Position: Family Support Worker

Location: Birmingham

Hours: Full Time

Salary: £20,000 per annum

Contract: Fixed term to end of March 2022

Benefits: The provision of workplace wellbeing support and activities, flexible working and a range of family friendly policies and subsidised parking.

Closing Date: Midnight on Sunday 25th July

Interview Date: TBC

The Role

The Family Support Worker will work within the early help locality multi-disciplinary team to provide a timely and front line response to the needs of children, young people and their families; acting in accordance with local policies, procedures and priorities.

You will deliver evidenced based and practical interventions to positively effect change that safeguards and promotes the welfare of children and young people.

Duties and key responsibilities include:

  • Supporting families referred ensuring external agencies are drawn in to provide relevant support
  • Manage caseload of families
  • Work closely with the core partners (Children’s Trust Early Help Team, Birmingham Forward Steps, Birmingham City Council and local schools and West Midlands Police) to ensure the optimum level of support is accessed by the family
  • Develop an up to date understanding of services that are available to families
  • Assist in the development of the Edgbaston Early Help Asset Register
  • Attend meetings, representing Edgbaston Early Help as required
  • Raise awareness of grants and other assistance available to families and where necessary
  • Under the direction of the Co-ordinator promote and use the early help assessment and relevant tools to identify the needs of children, young people and their family and to lead the development of an effective multi-agency support plan
  • Via effective outreach engage with children, young people and their families and actively promote their participation in early help assessments, support plans and interventions.

About You

We are looking for an energetic communicator with excellent engagement and interpersonal skills with the ability to communicate effectively with young people, parents and carers who are experiencing health, wellbeing or social care difficulties.

You will have:

  • Experience of delivering outreach or one to support work
  • Experience of supporting families and individuals with complex support needs
  • Experience of forging links and establishing relationships with partner agencies
  • Knowledge of VCSE organisations within the locality and support available for families
  • Good administration and record keeping skills
  • Good IT and Microsoft word packages (spreadsheets etc.) skills
  • The ability to use social media, ICT and digital platforms competently
  • The ability to manage time and prioritise own workload

You may also have experience in areas such as Family Support Worker, Youth Support Worker, Child Support Worker, Support Worker, Early Help Assessor, Early Help, Welfare, Young People, Family Services, Family Service, Outreach, Outreach Worker, Outreach Support, Social Services, Care, Social Care, Community Support, Community, Community Project Officer, Community Partnerships, Community Engagement.

Family Support Worker JD

Application Form GFS May 2021

Instructions for Completing the Application Form May 2021

Alternatively you can request an application form by calling Maxine Brown on 0121 456 7820 or emailing recruitment@gatewayfs.org

Community Connector Vacancy

Community Connector

Many staff working across the public sector and voluntary sector don’t know what support, or organisations are available in a neighbourhood.  We are looking for a Community Connector to change this situation, and make sure all families can connect to support, help, activities, interests as part of a range of early help support.

The role involves building working relationships for Children, Young people and Families across Community, Voluntary and Statutory Organisation (including schools and training providers, Health Providers, Business and community stakeholders within the Locality Partnership).

Position: Community Connector (Edgbaston Early Help)

Location: Birmingham, covering Edgbaston

Hours: 37 hours per week (2 full time posts available)

Salary: £20,750 per annum (rising to £21,500pa following successful completion of Probationary Period)

Contract: Fixed term until 31st March 2022

Benefits: The provision of workplace wellbeing support and activities, flexible working and a range of family friendly policies and subsidised parking.

Closing Date: Sunday 25th July (midnight)

Interview Date: TBC

The Role

The organisation enables communities to work collaboratively and seamlessly with all the relevant statutory agencies and third sector organisations to identify early those most in need of support and enabling the most appropriate health, education, vocational and social support and interventions within a localised community setting. This forms part of its vision to apply a family centred and preventative focus in tackling need and inequalities though partnership working

The Community Connector will engage with all the many and various community and voluntary organisations in a locality, ensuring that the diversity of the city is reflected in the mapping of assets and support.

Duties and key responsibilities include:

  • Relationship building
  • Community engagement and mapping
  • Delivering training and support to professionals within locality to support understanding of the Early Help offer and support available
  • Social Prescribing and Digital Networking

About You

We are looking for a dynamic and energetic communicator with excellent engagement and interpersonal skills with the ability to communicate effectively with young people, parents and carers who are experiencing health, wellbeing or social care difficulties.

You will have:

  • Experience of working in an engagement role with diverse community settings with statutory and third sector organisations
  • Experience of working with organisations that support vulnerable children, young people, families or groups
  • An understanding of information sharing, consent and confidentiality issues and risks
  • Experience and understanding of the importance of equalities, diversity and inclusion
  • An understanding of the lived experience of individuals from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds

You may also have experience in areas such as Community Development Worker, Social Service, Social Services, Support Worker, Care Worker, Early Help, Social Work, Youth, Youth Worker, Support Service, Vulnerable Adult, Care, Care and Support, Social Care, Community Support, Community, Children, Young People, Family, Community Project Officer, Community Partnerships Manager, Community Partnerships Officer, Community Engagement Officer, Community Engagement

Community Connector Job Description

Instructions for Completing the Application Form May 2021

Application Form GFS May 2021  (please return to recruitment@gatewayfs.org)

Applications can also be requested by telephone by calling Maxine Brown on 0121 456 7820 or emailing recruitment@gatewayfs.org

Social Prescribing Link Worker Vacancy

Social Prescribing Link Worker

We have rewarding opportunity for a Social Prescribing Link Worker to focus on ‘what matters to me’ and taking a holistic approach to people’s health and wellbeing. If you feel you could connect to people, community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support, we would love to hear from you!

Position: Social Prescribing Link Worker

Location: Birmingham and Solihull

Hours: Full and Part time hours available  

Salary: £20,750 – £21,500 per annum

Contract: Fixed term to the end of March 2022 (with potential for extension beyond this date)

Benefits: The provision of workplace wellbeing support and activities, flexible working and a range of family friendly policies and subsidised parking.

Closing Date: Sunday 1st August (midnight)

Interview Dates: TBC

Social Prescribing Link Worker will be integrated into the wider multi-disciplinary team of a PCN. This is part of NHS England’s Long Term Plan, which commits to building the infrastructure for Social Prescribing in primary care.

The Role

Social prescribing empowers people to take control of their health and wellbeing through referral to ‘link workers’ who give time, focus on ‘what matters to me’ and take a holistic approach to an individual’s health and wellbeing, connecting people to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support. Link workers also support existing groups to be accessible and sustainable and help people to start new community groups, working collaboratively with all local partners.

You will work as a key part of the primary care network (PCN) multi-disciplinary team. Social prescribing can help PCNs to strengthen community and personal resilience and reduces health and wellbeing inequalities by addressing the wider determinants of health, such as debt, poor housing and physical inactivity, by increasing people’s active involvement with their local communities. It particularly works for people with long term conditions (including support for mental health), for people who are lonely or isolated, or have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing.

About You

The Social Prescribing Link Worker will:

  • Be a good listener, have time for people and be committed to supporting local communities to care for each other.
  • Have experience of working positively with people facing complex social and emotional challenges.
  • Have a good knowledge of the area in which you’ll be based and what groups, activities and services are available there.

Although not essential it would be useful if you were trained in Motivational Coaching or Behaviour Change. The ability to speak one or more of the following “community” languages – Punjabi, Urdu, Bengali, Arabic, Somali, Romanian or Polish would also be advantageous

The service is delivered flexibly to meet the needs of patients so some evening and weekend work may be required.

An interview is guaranteed to suitably qualified and experienced people with disabilities. All successful applicants will be subject to an enhanced DBS check.

You may also have experience in areas such as Floating Support, Befriending, Community Family Worker, Social Worker, Community Navigator, Peer Support Worker, Welfare Support, Family Worker, Family Support Worker, Benefit, Care, Therapeutic, Therapy, Advice, Adviser, Health, Wellbeing, Social Care, Social Care Services, Health and Social Care.

Social Prescribing Link Worker Job Description and Person Specification

Instructions for Completing the Application Form May 2021

Application Form GFS May 2021 (please return to recruitment@gatewayfs.org)

Applications can also be requested by telephone by calling Maxine Brown on 0121 456 7820 or emailing recruitment@gatewayfs.org

 

Black, Asian and minority ethnic Maternity Voices: we want to hear from you

Do you have recent experience of maternity services? Are you from a Black, Asian or other minority ethnic background?

Maternity systems in Sandwell and West Birmingham are producing a COVID-19 Communications Plan, specifically designed to help them better communicate with women and families from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Now, Sandwell and West Birmingham Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) is looking for service users to help co-produce the Plan.

Why is this Communications Plan needed?

During the pandemic, there has been a decrease in people accessing NHS services, including maternity services. However, it is vitally important for pregnant women and new parents, especially Black and Asian women, to seek help if they have concerns about their own or their baby’s health.

Evidence has long shown that maternal and perinatal mortality rates are significantly higher for Black, Asian and mixed-race women and their babies than for white women. And recently, it has been found that mortality involving COVID-19 disproportionately affects people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. Emerging evidence indicates that Asian women are four times more likely than white women to be admitted to hospital with COVID-19 during pregnancy, while Black women are eight times more likely.

This Communications Plan is designed to reassure pregnant women and new parents that seeking help from the NHS is safe.

How you can help

First, click the link below to download the Plan (Word doc).

Draft-LMNS-BAME-Communications-Plan

When you have read the document, we would like to know your answers to four questions.

All questions are optional, so you can respond anonymously if you wish. However, if you would like to know more, or be more involved in producing the Plan, please include your name and email address where indicated.

When you’ve finished, press “Submit”, and your answers will be emailed to Che Maclaren, the Co-ordinator for Sandwell and West Birmingham MVP. You can also contact Che by emailing her at c.maclaren@gatewayfs.org

Name

Want to join the Maternity Voices Partnership as a Service User Representative?

Have you recently used maternity services in Sandwell and West Birmingham? Would you like the chance to improve women and families’ experience of perinatal care?

We are currently looking for Service User Representatives to join the Sandwell and West Birmingham MVP and help shape our maternity services for the better. Being a Rep could include coming to meetings (currently online), regularly giving feedback about local services, and attending focus groups – but you can be involved as much or as little as you like. Contact Che to find out more.

Bringing people together at Christmas: the Patient Health Forum

Last week the Patient Health Forum held their Christmas party, with singing, dancing… and a special visit from a certain Mr Claus!

The Gateway team was on hand to help, as ever, booking transport and making endless cups of tea, but for the party we made sure to include some special extras for this month’s event, including a Christmas quiz and some luxury Christmas cakes and treats. Forum favourite Reza entertained everyone with a selection of Christmas songs and dances that everyone could join in with, and even Father Christmas popped in with some presents.

The monthly meetings for the Patient Health Forum (also known as the Long Term Conditions Group) are a much-loved social event for many of the forum members, but we know that the Christmas party is especially important. Some people told us on Thursday that this would be the only social event they’d be going to over the festive season, and a couple of people told us they will be spending Christmas day on their own.

Experiences and expertise

As well as being a social group, the forum is actually an important part of the local NHS’s patient participation strategy. The group, which meets in Stirchley, is funded by NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG, which uses the group to directly capture views and opinions from people with long term health conditions. This feedback is then used to improve local services, as the CCG explains on its website:

“By talking directly to patients with long-term conditions, we are able to ask them to help us with the design, improvement and review of health services, enabling them to draw upon their own experiences and expertise.” –NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG

If you’d like to get involved with the long term conditions group, or you know someone in South Birmingham who might benefit from coming along, call the team on 0121 456 7820 and ask to speak to someone about the Patient Health Forum.

Meet our MVP Chair: Chloe

In the summer, we welcomed a new Chair for our Maternity Voices Partnership: Chloe Cadby.

The role of Chair is a busy one, and we’re happy to say Chloe has thrown herself into it over the last four months!

Last week, a team from the MVP visited Solihull Maternity Unit to take the “15 Steps” challenge and feed back with their first impressions

The Maternity Voices Partnership is made up of maternity professionals (like midwives and doctors), and service users (women who have been pregnant and given birth and their family members) and it’s Chloe’s job to speak on behalf of services users in these external meetings.

So as well as attending the regular MVP sessions, which are once a quarter, she has also been attending focus groups, quarterly meetings with Bump, meetings with us here at Gateway, and other events like the “15 Steps for Maternity” walks we’ve organised.

As a mum of two children, who each had very different births, Chloe has had experience of the local maternity services herself. She’s also experienced in helping new mums, thanks to her work in Children’s Centres over the last few years. But she’s also very interested in making things better for others, as she tells us here.

“I love anything maternity. A few years ago I started volunteering in my local Children’s Centre and as part of that I’ve done lots of training, including a 12 week breastfeeding course, which means I can give new moms really useful, practical, help.

 

 

“When my baby was about four months old, I found out about the MVP meetings. At first, I wasn’t really sure what it was all about but I went along anyway because it sounded interesting and I could take him along with me.

 

 

“I continued going, and found myself reading up on everything we talked about, and learning more and more. So when the chair position came up, I went for it.

 

 

“I really like the idea of being able to feed back into the system through the MVP. I love hearing people’s birth stories, and at the MVP meetings we don’t just get to talk about our maternity experiences, we can share important opinions with maternity professionals, and they listen. We’re working together to make things better for other women and families.

 

 

“Eventually, I want to go back to work, and I’d love to work in this area if I can, so working with the MVP is a good foot in the door. Having children, you sometimes feel like your brain has gone to mush, but this is helping me to stay challenged and feel like I’m really using my brain. I love listening to others, learning more, reading up on what we talk about at each meeting. It’s a chance to really be me, not just a mom!”

 

Want to get involved?

If you have personal experience of local maternity services, we welcome all “service user” voices and we aim to make all meetings accessible and child-friendly. Call Reshma at Gateway on 0121 456 7820 to find out about the next MVP event.

“I love that it’s giving women a voice!”

Hear from Chloe in her own words in this short video.

Solihull Stop Smoking service

Want to quit smoking? Introducing the Solihull Stop Smoking Service

Did you know you’re three times more likely to quit with the help of a Stop Smoking service?

The Solihull Stop Smoking service is now part of the Solihull Lifestyle Service, so it’s FREE and easy to access if you live in Solihull, or have a Solihull GP.

How does it work?

Call free on 0800 599 9880
If you’d like to stop smoking, call the Solihull Lifestyle Service on 0800 599 9880, or ask your GP or pharmacist about stop smoking support. After a brief initial assessment, you’ll be put in touch with an NCSCT certified Stop Smoking Practitioner who will start working with you as soon as you’re ready.

At your regular one-to-one appointments, held at convenient times and locations, you and your Practitioner will create a tailored action plan together. You will be provided with information and access to stop smoking medications (prescription costs when applicable) and your Stop Smoking Practitioner will provide advice, support and encouragement.

What to expect

Vicky Masters is the Senior Practitioner for the Solihull Stop Smoking Service. Here, she explains what to expect when you start working with a Stop Smoking Practitioner.

Vicky Masters, Senior Stop Smoking Practitioner, Solihull Lifestyle Service

“Often people are quite nervous when they come to their first appointment, but they soon find we are friendly and helpful and they start to relax. It’s really important to be completely honest with your Stop Smoking Practitioner at the first session, as that is how we create your tailored plan.

“It’s a 12 week course and over those 12 weeks your Stop Smoking Practitioner will help you in sticking to your plan and keeping smokefree. Even if something doesn’t go quite to plan we will help you get back on track. The best way to quit smoking is with support and medication, and the Solihull Stop Smoking service can provide you with both!

“If you don’t know what medication you want to use, your Stop Smoking Practitioner will assist you and go through all the nicotine replacement products, such gum and patches, and also prescription-only medication such as Champix. You will have expert guidance on how to get the best out of your chosen medication.

“At each session you will have your carbon monoxide reading taken, which is a quick and simple breath test, and shows how much carbon monoxide is in your system. It’s really great when it goes to a ‘non-smoker’ reading and people tell us how much better they feel – sometimes physically, other times financially and also mentally.

“Stopping smoking isn’t an easy thing to do, but when people quit with support and motivation from the team it is so fantastic!”

Think you might be ready to make the change? Call 0800 599 9880 free or fill in a referral form and start your quit journey today!

10 self-help tips to stop smoking

from the NHS Live Well website

Think positive
You might have tried to quit smoking before and not managed it, but don’t let that put you off. Look back at the things your experience has taught you and think about how you’re really going to do it this time.

Make a plan to quit smoking
Make a promise, set a date and stick to it. Sticking to the “not a drag” rule can really help. Whenever you find yourself in difficulty, say to yourself, “I won’t even have a single drag”, and stick with this until the cravings pass. Think ahead to times where it might be difficult (a party, for instance), and plan your actions and escape routes in advance.

Consider your diet
Is your after-dinner cigarette your favourite? A US study revealed that some foods, including meat, make cigarettes more satisfying. Others, including cheese, fruit and vegetables, make cigarettes taste terrible. So swap your usual steak or burger for a veggie pizza instead. You may also want to change your routine at or after mealtimes. Getting up and doing the dishes straight away or settling down in a room where you don’t smoke may help.

Change your drink
The same US study as above also looked at drinks. Fizzy drinks, alcohol, cola, tea and coffee all make cigarettes taste better. So when you’re out, drink more water and juice. Some people find simply changing their drink (for example, switching from wine to a vodka and tomato juice) affects their need to reach for a cigarette.

Identify when you crave cigarettes
A craving can last 5 minutes. Before you give up, make a list of 5-minute strategies. For example, you could leave the party for a minute, dance or go to the bar. And think about this: the combination of smoking and drinking raises your risk of mouth cancer by 38 times.

Get some stop smoking support
If friends or family members want to give up, too, suggest to them that you give up together. There’s also support available from your local stop smoking service. Did you know that you’re up to 4 times more likely to quit successfully with their expert help and advice? You can also call the NHS Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044, open Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm and Saturday to Sunday, 11am to 4pm.

Get moving
A review of scientific studies has proved exercise, even a 5-minute walk or stretch, cuts cravings and may help your brain produce anti-craving chemicals.

Make non-smoking friends
When you’re at a party, stick with the non-smokers. “When you look at the smokers, don’t envy them,” says Louise, 52, an ex-smoker. “Think of what they’re doing as a bit strange – lighting a small white tube and breathing in smoke.”

Keep your hands and mouth busy
Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) can double your chances of success. As well as patches, there are tablets, lozenges, gum and a nasal spray. And if you like holding a cigarette, there are handheld products like the inhalator or e-cigarettes. When you’re out, try putting your drink in the hand that usually holds a cigarette, or drink from a straw to keep your mouth busy.

Make a list of reasons to quit
Keep reminding yourself why you made the decision to give up. Make a list of the reasons and read it when you need support. Ex-smoker Chris, 28, says: “I used to take a picture of my baby daughter with me when I went out. If I was tempted, I’d look at that.”

Straight Talking Peer Educators

Straight Talking Peer Educators are in youth clubs this summer

You might have thought that our Straight Talking Peer Educators would be having a break over the summer, but they’re busier than ever!

Peer Educator Cherelle talks to pupils in Coventry

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…

Dennis chatting with Leslie and Keith

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this group”: Dennis’s story

We’re pleased to say the South Birmingham Long Term Conditions Group, which we started supporting in 2014, is still going strong.

carer picking up leaflets
The meetings include an opportunity to share information and find out what support is available
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.

Meet Dennis

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.