Category: Improving Lifestyles & Health

Services and initiatives that improve economic and physical wellbeing.

Supporting a group during lockdown: the Patient Health Forum

The Patient Health Forum (also known as the South Birmingham Long Term Conditions Group) is a social group for people who live with, or care for people who live with, a range of long term health conditions.

Patient Health Forum meetings would normally include a presentation, like this one from Age Concern.

It’s run by a committee of volunteers but the monthly meetings, which usually take place at a community centre in Stirchley, are supported and facilitated by Gateway.

The group has been going for years now and, for many of the Forum members, the monthly meetings are a lifeline: some members live alone, or with the person they care for, and would otherwise rarely get the chance to socialise. The meetings provide a chance to meet friends and other people who are in a similar situation, as well as access to information and advice from local agencies and groups. Plus, of course, the all-important buffet lunch!

So in March, when the meetings had to be suspended, we had to make sure that we could continue supporting the group.

Switching to remote support

In mid-March, when it became obvious that gatherings would need to stop, we contacted all Forum members with the offer of a phonecall in lieu of the regular meetings. At that point, almost all of the members accepted the offer of a monthly wellbeing check or social call.

However, as you probably remember, things escalated quickly at the end of March. A week after offering the monthly calls it became clear that most members would have to isolate because they are over 70 or otherwise vulnerable. So we made the check-ins weekly. Many of the Gateway staff who’ve helped out at Forum meetings know the members quite well, and others were quick to offer befriending support, so we were very happy to do this… but it did mean that we were making weekly calls to more than 50 people.

Over the last two months, some Forum members have opted out of the calls, as they feel they already have enough support from friends, family or neighbours. But we have gladly continued to make weekly calls to the remaining members and, right now, we are continuing to support around 15 people.

What do we talk about?

Most of the calls Gateway staff make to Patient Health Forum members are social, but many are also practical. Amongst other things, we’ve helped people to have their medication delivered, register as vulnerable on the NHS website, find out more about the benefits they are entitled to, get in touch with a chiropodist, and start online shopping.

But sometimes the calls are surprising. We have found that as well as providing support, we are also empowering people, giving them the chance to be helpful to others as well as benefiting themselves. Becky, a support worker who’s been making calls, says: “One woman was fantastic about sharing her local info about food and pharmacy deliveries with me, and I have been able to pass this on to others who have also benefited. She definitely saw herself as contributing to our community knowledge rather than receiving from me.”

Kath is one of the Gateway staff making wellbeing calls.

Kath, another staff member who’s been making wellbeing calls, pointed out that the crisis itself is also having some unexpected benefits. “Some of the patients told me they had reconnected with friends and family they hadn’t spoken to for a while,” she says. “One lady was pleased she’d actually had a two hour conversation with her daughter, who had previously been too busy to visit or pick up the phone.”

And Forum members have told us how grateful they are for the continued support. Some have told us they’d been feeling a bit forgotten by services, so a chat makes all the difference.

We’re very pleased to be able to help but it’s a worrying time for people who are already socially isolated. It’s not clear yet how the future of groups like the Patient Health Forum might look – but we hope that it won’t be long before we can start safely bringing people together again.

Some more comments from members…

“This call means the world to me. It breaks up my boredom and cheers me up. I enjoy having a natter and a grumble; it stops me from getting depressed, so I look forward to it. I miss the Patient Health Forum; seeing everyone there and the lunches.”

“I’m glad for the call. I don’t have a TV in my house, just a radio, but I’d usually be out meeting my friends. Not being able to chat much to people can get lonely, but this call helps me to speak to someone.”

“This call helps me if I need additional information, or when I am not sure about things like support for my disabled daughter. I’m happy to have a chat and you’ve helped me with your advice on how to keep myself busy doing jigsaws and mandala colouring. I really miss the Patient Health Forum gatherings so thank you for checking up on me weekly, it means a lot.”

“A big thank you to you and Gateway for calling me, especially in these difficult times.”

“It’s really kind of you to check up on me and make sure I am OK. It means a lot that you’re taking the time to ring me up.”

“Great to hear that someone cares; that we are not shut up and put away. I am happy I belong to some clubs including the Patient Health Forum. They are checking up on me which is a really nice thought especially in these difficult times.”

“It means a lot to me when you call. When you don’t see people it’s lovely to get a call out of the blue and have good chat. I have been feeling lonely, and isolating does not help the situation. Thank you, I look forward to next week’s chat.”

Working together to provide a ‘lifeline’

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and we thought we’d mark it with a story from one of our Social Prescribing Link Workers, Becky (pictured).

Becky is one of 15 Link Workers employed by Gateway in partnership with SDSmyhealthcare and The North Solihull Collaborative. Each one is attached to a PCN (a group of GP surgeries) and, in ‘normal’ times, would be working from surgeries to provide support to patients at face-to-face appointments. Link Workers are there to help with people’s social, rather than clinical, needs: listening, understanding, and connecting people to community groups and statutory services for practical and emotional support. Currently, all of their support is done over the phone or via video calls.

Last week, Becky told us about Brian*. We thought that the story, although sad, was a reminder that “support” can be as simple as being there for someone, and noticing if they go quiet. It’s also a really good example of the importance of good relationships between our Link Workers, local community groups, and the patient’s GP.

Brian says Social Prescribers have been a ‘lifeline’

By Becky Cuthbert, Social Prescribing Link Worker

More than six weeks into lockdown, and it’s starting to take its toll. We are all feeling it and so are the patients I’ve been supporting.

I had been phoning one patient, Brian, every other day, but one day I just couldn’t get him to answer. This was a cause for concern because during previous conversations Brian had gone into a lot of detail, sharing his mental health struggles over the years, previous suicidal thoughts, chronic anxiety, drug use, insomnia and what he described as his ‘mental breakdowns’. Why wasn’t he picking up, or messaging me? What if he was relapsing?

I phoned a contact from the local art-based social prescribing group who had referred Brian to Gateway’s Social Prescribing service. She had not been able to get hold of him either and had similar concerns. This confirmed that it was time to get in touch with his GP and ask them to do some follow up.

I’m grateful that, of the various practices I work with, Brian belongs to a surgery where the Practice Manager and GPs understand my role and value Social Prescribing’s contribution to holistic care. I emailed the Practice Manager and the Clinical Lead about the safeguarding concerns I had.

The next day I received a reply letting me know that they’d been able to contact Brian. He had apologised for the lack of contact and shared that he had been retreating into himself more and more, telling the GP that my colleague (from the art project) and I have been ‘lifelines’ for him recently.

Brian has decided that he needs more support for his mental health and the GP is now working that through with him.

This shows our system working and joining up to provide a safety net. Most importantly, Brian knows he is cared for and that he hasn’t been forgotten – and that means a lot for his mental health.

Since then, Brian has texted and had a long call with me. He says, ‘you don’t know what it means that you care and that you notice’.

It is wonderful to contribute to a very caring, human network of care. Brian can see that I work closely with other partners and with his GP, and that we have a high level of trust and a shared vision between us: a ‘community of care’. I believe that our patients can perceive this and it all helps convey the important message, ‘you matter’. We are not claiming that a few phone calls are enough to bring full health and wholeness to Brian’s complex mental health issues, but they could have been enough to prevent deterioration, and been the start of him getting more help. Like he said, it’s a ‘lifeline’.

I often say to people that Social Prescribing is simple really, there’s nothing very big or clever about it. It’s about doing small things, but doing them well. It’s a challenge when working from home, but going forward I know I need to continue to invest in my relationships with all the Practices I work with and to spread the vision of the big impact that Social Prescribing can have.

 

*Brian’s name has been changed.

Mental Health Awareness Week: kindness matters

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, and this year, the theme is kindness.

The recent months have seen a heartening number of support schemes popping up all over our region. It’s good to know that when times are tough, our community will step up and find ways to help each other. But did you know that being kind to others can also benefit your own mental health?

As the Mental Health Foundation’s Kindness Matters guide points out:

  • Helping others feels good
  • It creates a sense of belonging and reduces isolation
  • It helps keep things in perspective
  • It helps to make the world a happier place – one act of kindness can often lead to more!
  • The more you do for others, the more you do for yourself

Here at Gateway, many of our staff have recently had to change, adapt or add new elements to their usual roles. Last month we wrote about the new normal – the many ways in which we have had to change the way we work since the crisis began.

But we’re not the only ones! Many of the organisations and businesses we’re now working with were not originally set up to provide emergency support. Like youth organisation B32 Community, which now delivers food parcels; the Station Pub in Kings Heath, which has become a foodbank; and even Sunday League football club the Rubery Misfits, who have swapped kickabouts for community work – and about whom Sam, Asset Development Worker for the Edgbaston NNS, says, “Nothing is too much for them, they travel all across Birmingham, they deliver between working their full time jobs. The food parcels are very generous sized enough to feed a family for a week. The team are friendly, kind and caring family men who are putting a lot of effort into making sure nobody goes without.”

Rewarding

Perhaps surprisingly, many of our staff are finding the challenge of the new support work rewarding in itself.

prescription delivery – photo taken by a member of staff as they waited for it to be picked up by the householder

Paula is a Community Wellbeing Adviser for the Solihull Lifestyle Service. She says, “I am currently helping to collect and deliver prescriptions throughout Solihull, which has given me a much needed focus and routine during these uncertain times. I have also found the deliveries very rewarding as I engage with the public (albeit in a social distancing environment) and see people’s thanks and appreciation at having one less thing to worry about.”

And the acts of kindness that our staff are involved with are, in many cases, creating a ‘virtuous circle’.

Marc, who’s leading the Edgbaston Early Help scheme, says: “There are two food providers I’ve been working with a lot: B32 Community and the Station Foodbank. As they’ve been so good to others in the locality, dropping food parcels to vulnerable people, I wanted to show some kindness back so I made a donation to both. When I shared their donation pages on my social media my brother in law, an ex-Quinton resident, also donated because he was happy to hear that people were being supported back where he used to live.”

Becky, a Social Prescribing Link Worker, has added extra phonecalls to her rota, supporting people from some of Gateway’s other services, including the Patient Health Forum. But she has found that the support she is giving people is often just the beginning – the people she speaks to get a lot out of sharing their experiences and helping others themselves. Becky says, “One woman was fantastic about sharing her local knowledge about food and pharmacy deliveries with me and I then passed this on to others who have benefited. Another chap said, ‘I hope I can help you one day’. He may not be able to help me personally but I have a feeling he will ‘pay it forward’ and help others in the future.”

Don’t forget to be kind to yourself

Whilst it’s lovely to hear stories of kindness from others, we should add that it’s also important to be kind to yourself.

Sadaf, also a Social Prescribing Link Worker, said, “Whilst working with patients its often clear that there is a sense of low self esteem, feelings of not being good enough and often blaming themselves for certain situations. I would like to highlight that perhaps if people were kinder to themselves it would reduce anxiety and a variety of other issues.”

And the Mental Health Foundation agrees.

“Whatever you can manage today is good enough. Some people feel that the lockdown is giving them the time and chance to learn new skills or try new things. That may be you, and if so, enjoy and celebrate that. If this isn’t you, try not to beat yourself up about what you see others doing. If things are hard right now, try and find some small things to celebrate each day. Getting up and washing your hair can be just as much of an achievement as someone else posting about a 5k run on Instagram. Try to tune out the voice of judgement and comparison and tune in to the voice that says you are enough.”

Read more in the Kindness Matters guide.

solihull lifestyle service - call free on 0800 599 9880

Behaviour changes for a healthier lifestyle

Despite the lockdown, the Solihull Lifestyle Service is still very much up and running. Our team is continuing to support people from across the borough and to provide all levels of support, whether that’s over the phone or via video calls.

Lifestyle support for Solihull clients is based on behaviour change, and that’s because it’s the best way to help people make sustainable, lifelong changes that they can manage themselves. For example, although most people are referred because they want to lose weight, it’s often not as simple as “eat less, exercise more”. Habits can be really tough to break.

But our team are experts at helping people to re-think their habits and overcome negative thinking.

Meet Kavita

Kavita, on the right, is our Senior Behaviour Change Advisor.

Kavita (on the right in the picture) is our Senior Behaviour Change Advisor.

With a Masters (soon to be Doctorate) in Health Psychology, she supports the clients who need a little extra help to tackle lifestyle changes and to start living a happier, healthier life.

One of the people Kavita is supporting at the moment is Nina (not her real name), who was referred by her GP. Read on to find out how Behaviour Change support is about so much more than weight management – and how Nina is learning to make changes that will last a lifetime.

Nina’s story*

After trying to lose weight herself more than five times in the last year, Nina* – who is in her 20s – was struggling to know what to do next. After speaking to her doctor about it, he suggested the Solihull Lifestyle Service.

When he referred her to us, Nina’s GP told us that his main concerns for Nina were her low physical activity and low feelings of wellbeing and mood. But he also pointed out that her BMI was also at 26, which put her in the “overweight” category, and she has a high risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, since both of these run in her family.

We assigned Nina to our Senior Behaviour Change Adviser, Kavita, and they met for a one-to-one session so Kavita could assess the key problems she was experiencing.

Negative feelings

It was clear Nina was struggling to manage her weight and wanted some support to change this, but they also talked about her lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. Nina explained how she has experienced these negative feelings about herself from a young age and now, as an adult, they were holding her back from doing what she really wants to do. Although she was feeling very motivated to lose weight and take more exercise – not least because she was getting married soon – she was struggling to actually make the changes.

Kavita wanted to help her get to the bottom of things.

One of the main things that came across in their first meeting was the way that Nina’s work as a nurse often cause her to experience bouts of anxiety and low mood. Together, Kavita and Nina decided to focus on this first, as this was causing her the most distress, with her mood and self-esteem lowered almost daily. Although she lives with her partner, Nina didn’t feel she could talk to him about what she was experiencing, and she has no family in the UK, so chances to talk about her feelings were rare.

Kavita gave Nina a Thoughts and Feelings diary with the instruction to complete this only when she was engaging in negative behaviours – whether or not these were related to diet and activity. The idea was that this should start to increase Nina’s awareness of what she was thinking and feeling every day, especially at work, and the impact this may have been having on her mood and self-esteem.

Breaking down the problems

Nina and Kavita have now had six sessions together and during every session, Nina tells Kavita about any new or emerging negative thoughts. Together, they break down the problem and discuss possible solutions, techniques or strategies that could help to minimise or overcome the problem, both in the short and long term.

Right now, the support sessions are having to be held over the phone, but it’s working well and Nina is keen to continue. She’s still writing in the Thoughts and Feelings diary, and finds that identifying and expressing her anxieties with work this way is helping her. Kavita helps her to identify the negative beliefs she has around a situation then, together, they challenge these and talk about replacing the anxiety with a positive prediction. “What if…?”

Nina tells Kavita she’s already feeling better and more positive, day to day. By trying to minimise the negative anxieties at work, which are influencing her general mood, it is hoped that Nina’s overall quality of life will improve, and she will find it easier to make the broader lifestyle changes she really wants to make.

How to refer into the service

The Solihull Lifestyle Service offers a range of tailored health and wellbeing advice and support to help people make positive lifestyle changes. Despite the lockdown, we are continuing to support people from across the borough and to provide all levels of support, whether that’s over the phone or via video calls.

If you live in Solihull, or have a Solihull GP, call 0800 599 9880 and ask about signing up — or complete an online referral form.

*Nina’s name has been changed

What a difference a year makes: Social Prescribing Day 2020

Today is the second ever Social Prescribing Day, highlighting the importance and significance of social prescribing within healthcare.

What a difference a year makes

This time last year, we celebrated the first Social Prescribing Day with a story from Healthy Futures. We told how Wellbeing Navigator Ralph had helped Alia and her disabled son to meet new people and put down some roots when they moved from temporary accommodation into social housing.

Healthy Futures was a social prescribing service that we funded ourselves and this was a typical client story, showing just how much a Social Prescribing was needed in Birmingham. However, although Healthy Futures was highly successful from a healthcare perspective — supporting over 200 people with tailored non-medical support, and saving time and money for local GPs — eventually, a lack of external financial support made it unsustainable.

Since last year’s Social Prescribing Day, though, we’re pleased to say that things have changed considerably.

This year, the concept of Social Prescribing is much more widely known and understood.

NHS England have rolled out Social Prescribing services nationally, funding PCNs (Primary Care Networks, which are groups of GP practices) across the country to offer a model that is very similar to Healthy Futures. Many GPs, practice staff and other primary care providers can now refer patients to a Link Worker, who works one-to-one with the patient to offer direct support and signposting.

Now, people in Birmingham like Alia will be able to once again access support from a trusted para-professional, trained to support people with all sorts of social, non-clinical needs. Gateway is working in partnership with SDSmyhealthcare to deliver a Social Prescribing Link Worker service to 11 PCNs across Birmingham and Solihull, and our new Link Workers are already settling into their surgeries.

Gateway Social Prescribing Link Workers

We have a team of 11 Link Workers, all of whom have a wide network of community contacts and experience and knowledge of their local area. You can meet the Link Workers and read more about them here.

Each Social Prescribing Link Worker works from a number of different surgeries throughout the week, offering patients one-to-one, person-centred support.

GPs and Practice staff can refer anyone who needs non-medical help, and the Link Worker will work with that person to help them take control of their own health and wellbeing and increase their active involvement with their local community.

  • People with social rather than medical needs
  • People needing help to access or navigate services
  • People experiencing social isolation or poor mental health
  • People with issues relating to advice, housing or income

“Sure, we can walk with you through a door – but ultimately it is your door.”

Zeshaan is one of Gateway’s new Social Prescribing Link Workers. He works with GP practices in the NSAR Primary Care Network, covering Nechells, Saltley and Alum Rock. Find out more about his role, and how he feels about social prescribing, in this short video.

Free health checks at Chelmsley Wood Shopping Centre – all this week

Advisers from the Solihull Lifestyle Service are offering FREE health checks and advice at Chelmsley Wood Shopping Centre all this week.

The team will be on the first floor, at the top of the escalator near Asda, until Sunday 19th Jan. They can offer all sorts of health and wellbeing advice, including blood pressure checks, BMI checks, advice for people who want to cut down on drinking and smoking, healthy eating tips and information about physical activity, including contact information for exercise groups and other activity sessions in the area.

Where?

First Floor, Chelmsley Wood Shopping Centre (top of the escalator, opposite Solihull Connect)

When?

Monday 13th January 9.00am – 5.00pm
Tuesday 14th January 9.00am – 5.00pm
Wednesday 15th January 9.00am – 5.00pm
Thursday 16th January 9.00am – 5.00pm
Friday 17th January 9.00am – 5.00pm
Saturday 18th January 9.00am – 5.00pm
Sunday 19th January 10.00am – 4.00pm

The Community Wellbeing Advisers will also be registering people for the Solihull Lifestyle Service, which offers ongoing one-to-one support for all your health and wellbeing needs, including help to stop smoking. To register, you must live in Solihull or have a Solihull GP, but the service is completely free and you’ll get a personalised action plan to help you work towards your goals.

Take part in the Birmingham Food Conversation

Are you an expectant parent, or have you or your partner given birth within the last three months?

We’re looking for recent parents, or parents-to-be, to take part in a focus group about food and nutrition.

This is the second event we’re running as part of the “Birmingham Food Conversation”. The Birmingham Food Conversation is helping to shape a better food environment for citizens in Birmingham, so we’ll be talking about your thoughts on food and the food choices you make, and feeding that back as part of the wider conversation.

  • Parents can attend with children
  • Parking is available on site, and travel expenses will be reimbursed
  • Light refreshments will be provided
  • Each participant will receive a Love2Shop voucher worth £10, as a thank you
WHEN? Tuesday 7th January 2020, 10.30am-12.30pm

WHERE? Gateway offices, 6th floor, Birmingham Chamber of Commerce building, 75 Harborne Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham B15 3DH (near Five Ways island/Morrisons)

For more information, or to confirm your attendance, please contact Reshma on r.chudasama@gatewayfs.org, or call 0121 456 7820.

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.”

Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust CEO Richard Kirby has his blood pressure checked by Gateway Health Adviser Wayne Price

Building happier and healthier teams

We’ve been running Workplace Wellbeing services for a couple of years now, but right now we’re delivering one of our largest Workplace Wellbeing commissions yet: a series of events for Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust.

Gateway’s Wellbeing Advisers and Trainers have been working in a number of locations around the city, delivering one-to-one advice sessions and group workshops to several different NHS divisions, and have been working with hundreds of people.

Like all our Workplace Wellbeing activities, the work for the Trust is designed to get employees thinking about their own health and actively managing their own wellbeing; in this case activities are covering topics like eating healthily, managing stress and getting a good night’s sleep. We’ve designed the programme in collaboration with the Trust to ensure that each activity is based on the wellbeing needs that staff have identified themselves.

The numbers at a glance

There are a few more events left in our schedule for the Trust, but we’ve already engaged hundreds of people, up to senior management level, across six venues. For this piece of work so far:

  • 160 people have received a mini health check (blood pressure and BMI taken, followed by personalised advice)
  • 82 people have attended stress management workshops
  • 33 people have attended mindfulness workshops
  • 30 people have attended resilience training
  • more than 100 people have received advice and taken leaflets from our information stands

We also ran some half-day “taster events” where people could try out short sessions of activities like Tai Chi and guided meditation, and there was good attendance at these, too.

“Thank you to all your team. The day and the afternoon sessions evaluated really well.”
— Richard French-Lowe, Senior Consultant (Organisation Development), Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS Trust

Why commission a workplace wellbeing service?

Structured support and simple, practical advice from professional health facilitators can help employees to understand how work and health is intrinsically linked, and to create a happier and healthier workforce. Educating and supporting staff to manage their wellbeing has been shown to:

  • Reduce absences and sickness levels
  • Reduce risk before illness occurs
  • Improve staff retention
  • Improve motivation
  • Improve productivity

Your organisation or business can choose from a range of workforce wellbeing packages, including individual one-to-one support, group sessions and team workshops. We’ll work with you to come up with a bespoke plan that will address your staff’s needs. Topics available for sessions, workshops and activities include:

  • Healthy eating
  • Physical activity, included seated exercise
  • Stress management and resilience
  • Mindfulness
  • Better sleep
  • Smoking cessation
  • Alcohol awareness, including “mocktail” recipes
  • Blood pressure tests
  • BMI checks

If you’d like to commission Gateway’s health advisers to come and deliver Workplace Wellbeing events at your place of work, please contact Katherine on 0121 456 7820, or email k.hewitt@gatewayfs.org.

New Lifestyle Programme has given Karen her cooking mojo back!

After a period of illness and a series of surgeries, Karen (pictured above, left) found it hard to bounce back to her old self. Although her physical health was generally improving, she was still feeling low.

The 12 week course is part of Gateway’s new Solihull Lifestyle Service

“I’d always managed to maintain a good weight before my illness,” Karen says, “but even though I’d recovered from my operations, things weren’t the same. I had no energy, I felt low and suddenly I couldn’t seem to keep the weight off like I used to.”

One of the things Karen used to enjoy was cooking. But since her illness, she’d stopped spending time in the kitchen and instead would grab something quick and easy.

“I was tired all the time,” she says, “so I just wanted a quick fix. But those quick fixes had to be cheap, too. So instead of cooking from fresh, I was just grabbing a snack or a ready meal at the end of the day.”

Karen mentioned how she was feeling to her GP during a routine appointment, and her GP asked if she’d be interested in a free 12 week Lifestyle Programme.

“I jumped at the chance!” says Karen. “I’m on my own at home, with quite a tight budget, plus I work all day so I’m short on time, too, but I could fit in an evening class. And it wouldn’t cost me anything! I felt like I was being offered a chance to take advantage of free help with all the things I’d been worried about, so of course I said yes.”

The 12 week course

The Lifestyle Programme is part of the new Solihull Lifestyle Service. It replaces the Solihull Lighten Up service, and is designed to be a distinct 12-week behavioural change course, rather than a slimming group that people continue to go to indefinitely. The group Karen went to was at the Bosworth Community Centre in Fordbridge, North Solihull, but we hold meetings at a number of community venues in the borough.

By the end of 12 weeks, we hope the people who attend won’t only have lost weight (and all of the participants on Karen’s course had indeed lost weight by the final session) but will have made the changes required to keep the weight off. We don’t want the people we work with to be attending weight management groups forever; we want to give them the tools they need to make the changes themselves.

“A real boost”

Karen says that she enjoyed the programme because she didn’t feel pressured to lose weight.

For the final session of the course at the Bosworth Centre, attendees celebrated with a buffet – including a few treats!

“The course leader was really supportive and I liked the fact that it wasn’t all about getting your weight down – it was much deeper than that,” she says. “It was really educational. It’s not just buying branded diet meals or allowing yourself a certain number of ‘naughty’ foods. I feel like I’ve actually been on a proper course and learned a lot about food and how the body works.”

One of the big revelations for Karen was the fact that her low energy and low moods might be caused by the type of food she was eating.

“I thought I was knowledgeable, but a lot of the things I’ve learned here have shocked me. It turns out I was in a vicious circle. After learning about healthy fats, and salt and sugar levels, I realised that the quick meals were just sapping my energy and making me feel worse.

“I’d also stopped buying some of the things I really enjoy eating, like smoked mackerel and avocado, because I was under the impression that if they contained fat, they must be bad. Now I’ve learned that they’re OK and you actually need some of that in your diet.”

Thinking about food in a new way was the kick-start Karen needed to get back into healthier eating habits and to start cooking again. She says she’s already got more energy than she has had in years, which has stopped her downward spiral and given her motivation.

She says, “This programme has given me a real boost. It’s made me go back into the kitchen and spend time making nice meals again, from scratch, with the type of fresh food that I really want to eat. And the more I do it, the more energy I have to do it – it’s like I’ve found my mojo and I’m doing what I love again!”

Eye openers

Here are some of the things that attendees learned on the course, which they told us were “eye openers” for them:

  • The “traffic light” food labelling system, showing how much fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt is in your food
  • Portion control, with examples and easy ways to measure out the right portions of popular foods
  • The importance of drinking water, and how staying hydrated helps your body to process everything
  • Cooking healthily on a budget: simple recipes including a pizza that costs a quarter of the price of a takeaway
  • The Change4Life mobile app, which you can use when shopping to scan food items and make healthier choices

The Lifestyle Programme is part of the new Solihull Lifestyle Service, offering a range of tailored health and wellbeing advice and support to help you make positive lifestyle changes. If you live in Solihull, or have a Solihull GP, call 0800 599 9880 and ask about signing up — or complete an online referral form.