Author: Joanne Harper

Listening to Maternity Voices

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.

MVP Co-ordinator Sharon Bartlett addresses the group
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 s.bartlett@gatewayfs.org.

holding hands

Loneliness is bad for your health

Tracey Crouch MP
Tracey Crouch MP, Minister for Civil Society and “Minister for Loneliness”.

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.

What are the risk factors for loneliness?

A recent report by the Office for National Statistics gives some food for thought. It identified three profiles of people at particular risk from loneliness:

  • 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.

Connecting people

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.

References

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.

Birmingham Women's Hospital. Photo by Elliott Brown

Taking the Fifteen Steps For Maternity challenge

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

Catherine is a maternity services user

Anne-Marie

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.

baby in hospital cot

Help us to shape local maternity services

Do you have recent experience of maternity services in Birmingham or Solihull?

mums with baby 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.

Birmingham and Solihull MVP logoThe 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 s.bartlett@gatewayfs.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.

This MVP forms 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.

pinprick blood sugar test

Pre-Diabetes results show impressive retention rates and life-changing outcomes

Pre-diabetes course completers with their certificatesAs 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%.

Maypole Methodist Church Group made mango and avocado salsaOf 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.

Kings Norton Park walking group
In 2016, people in the Kings Norton groups decided they’d like to get active by going for walks together, so that’s what they did! Thanks to Friends of Kings Norton Park for the photo.

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.

It’s a tried and tested method, and it works.

*From https://www.england.nhs.uk/diabetes/diabetes-prevention/roll-out-of-the-programme/
**From https://www.england.nhs.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/impact-assessment-ndpp.pdf [pdf]
***Source: a 2012 report from the London School of Economics, via https://www.diabetes.co.uk/cost-of-diabetes.html (Diabetes.co.uk – the global diabetes community).

Making voices heard: the Maternity Voices Partnership

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 s.bartlett@gatewayfs.org.

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.)

Co-ordinator Caroline with Gateway's first Peer Educators

Young parents become Peer Educators

Last week, we ran the first session of training for our Peer Educators: young people who will be going into schools to talk about their experiences of parenthood.

We’re delivering this programme in the West Midlands in partnership with Straight Talking, a London charity that employs teenage mothers and young fathers to educate young people about early parenthood, healthy relationships, child sexual exploitation and sexting, enabling them to make responsible life choices.

Gateway was chosen to deliver the programme in the West Midlands because of our proven successes with services like the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service (POWS). It’s thanks to networks and experience like this that we’ve been able to recruit young people to the programme very quickly and hit the ground running. You can hear from one of them, Emily, in the video below.

The point of Straight Talking’s Peer Educators scheme is not only to reduce the high rate of teenage pregnancy and child sexual exploitation in the UK, but to support teenage parents themselves to achieve economic wellbeing and quality of life. Because the work is paid, with full training, it offers really good work experience, building confidence and opening the door to potential longer term employment. We love this model of working – employing people with direct, personal knowledge of the issues their clients face, and helping people to help each other – and it fits perfectly with our values, aims and objectives.

Last week’s training was led by representatives from Straight Talking, together with two Peer Educators who have been working with Straight Talking in other areas of the country. It began with some sessions in the training rooms at Gateway, including how to manage a classroom – no easy task! – and how to get pupils talking. The experienced mentors helped the new recruits to learn how to set ground rules and lead ice-breaker activities that will help them to start conversations and debates with pupils.

The next day, the new Peer Educators got to see how it worked for real, as they shadowed their mentors and watched them lead some Straight Talking sessions at Grace Academy in Solihull. Gateway’s Programme Co-ordinator Caroline (pictured at the top of the page with three new recruits) said, “it was really interesting to see how engaged the pupils were and how much they seemed to enjoy learning from the Peer Educators. There were some good debates and the hands-on activities really got the pupils thinking – like deciding how they would prioritise if they were faced with having to budget for a young family. Each session ended with a young person telling their own story of becoming a teen parent, and each time it was really powerful. It clearly makes a big impression on the children.”

In the video below, Emily talks about why she wants to be a Peer Educator, and why going into schools to talk about being a teenage mum is helping her, too.

Ruben from Straight Talking said, “Working with Gateway is going to be important for Straight Talking, simply because they share the same ethos as us, which is working with people to try and get them back into employment, and working with teenage mothers to give them the best health and wellbeing. You can tell straight away with the people that Gateway brought in that it’s going to be a good working relationship.”

We’re really looking forward to finding more young people to become Peer Educators over the next few months. If you became a parent when you were a teenager, you’re still under 25 now, and you’d like to find out more, call Caroline on 0121 456 7820.

Taking a risk to invest in people’s Healthy Futures

Recently, we have decided to take a bit of a risk and relaunch a service, despite a lack of external funding. Using our own reserves, we have relaunched Healthy Futures, a programme supporting socially isolated people. In partnership with MyHealthcare, we are now taking referrals from GPs across South Birmingham.

Why? Because we know this service is desperately needed in Birmingham… and we know it works.

We know that Healthy Futures works because we ran a pilot programme in 2016. GPs and surgeries referred people who were socially isolated – for a variety of reasons – and Gateway’s para-professional staff and volunteer befrienders supported them. It was found to be a cost-effective way to reduce the time people spent with their GP (when a social intervention was more appropriate), as well as significantly increasing people’s self-reliance and self-care.

“The care navigation service is estimated to represent a saving in this scenario of approximately £10 per hour”: read how the pilot of Healthy Futures saved time for GPs and money for the NHS, according to official reports.

Importantly, we learned a number of things from the pilot, which means we know what works and what doesn’t. This has allowed us to design and relaunch a streamlined version of the service, despite limited resources.

For example, we were surprised at the age of many of the people we worked with in the pilot – we had been expecting to see a lot of elderly people, but in fact 70% of the people we saw were under 65. As well as people who wanted support to manage long term conditions, we saw a lot of alcohol dependency, anxiety and depression, accommodation issues and financial hardship.

It meant that every person we worked with initially needed intensive support from a para-professional Practice Navigator, rather than lower-level support from a Volunteer Befriender.

So, to start with, all staff working on Healthy Futures are para-professional Wellbeing Navigators. We hope that once the programme has been running for a while – depending on future income – we can introduce volunteer befrienders again, to allow people who no longer need intensive help to continue receiving a phased-down, lower level of support.

And, of course, we are continuing to apply for funding, so we’ve designed the new Healthy Futures in a way that will allow us to build capacity quickly and efficiently once we secure outside investment. With a little help, we could be supporting hundreds of socially isolated people across a wider area in no time.

“Diane was lonely, anxious and at risk”: read how the Healthy Futures pilot programme helped Diane

Healthy Futures was designed, and is being relaunched, in partnership with MyHealthcare. To find out more, or to refer patients into the service, GPs and Practice Managers should call 0121 456 7820 and ask for Healthy Futures.

Programme Coordinator Vacancy

We are looking for a Programme Coordinator to work on our new Social Prescribing Project based in Birmingham.

Gateway Family Services CIC is a leading provider of services to the health and social care sector. Our aim is to reduce inequalities in learning, employment and health.

We are currently looking for a Programme Coordinator to join our team.  You will be working within our Care Navigator Service which will be based initially within South Birmingham (travel to other areas may be required).  This is a fixed term post to end of April 2018.

The role will involve:

  • Heavily contributing to the successful set up and delivery of Care Navigator contract and providing support to management team
  • Taking responsibility for the line management of support staff
  • Direct support to clients with complex needs
  • Supporting administration of contracts and the meeting of targets.
  • Report writing on a monthly and quarterly basis

Essential requirements include experience of supervising or management staff and delivering outreach/support work.  It is also necessary that candidates have a Level 3 qualification in a health related subject.

Applicants for this post must be willing to work flexible hours that will be set around the needs of the organisation which will at times include evenings and weekends.

This post is subject to DBS disclosure as at times the post holders will come into contact with vulnerable people.

Please take a look at the Job Advert.

Care Coordinator Job Description

Application packs can be obtained by emailing Maxine Brown maxine.brown@gatewayfs.org or by calling 0121 456 7820 quoting ref GW178

Closing date for applications is midnight on Wednesday 1st November 2017.  Completed application forms should be emailed to Joanne Harper on joanne.harper@gatewayfs.org

 

Business Development Manager Vacancy

THE APPLICATION DEADLINE FOR THIS VACANCY HAS PASSED

We are looking for an Experienced Business Development Manager to join our Our Team on a fixed term basis.

Gateway Family Services (GFS) is in its twelfth year and in that time it has grown to be recognised as one of the key providers of health and social care in Birmingham and the surrounding area. It has developed and delivered services, worked independently, collaboratively and in partnership.

However the business environment that GFS is currently operating in has changed markedly from that which existed when the C.I.C was established. There is intense financial pressure on the sector leading to many services disappearing or drastically reducing. Those weathering the storm best are those who have been able to compete, adapt and diversity which is why we are seeking to appoint this role to help us identify wider opportunities, engage in new networks and ultimately secure new work.

Interested?  Please take a look at the Job Advert  for more information and details of how to apply. PLEASE NOTE: THE APPLICATION DEADLINE FOR THIS VACANCY HAS PASSED

Business Development Job Description

If you’d like an informal chat about the role please contact Katherine Hewitt on 0121 456 7820/07584 682307 or via email; katherine.hewitt@gatewayfs.org

Applications can be requested from Maxine Brown on 0121 456 7820 or via email; maxine.brown@gatewayfs.org