You might already know that our Social Prescribing service, Healthy Futures, had to stop taking referrals at the end of last year, due to lack of funds. You might also know that Healthy Futures is desperately needed in Birmingham. People who need support are relying on their GP or local A&E because they don’t know where else to go.
But did you know that if all of our Twitter followers chipped in with a tenner, we could support at least ten people for another year?
So we’re asking for your help.
In the next few weeks, we’re going to be launching a crowdfunding campaign. We’re hoping to raise £7000, which would allow our Healthy Futures Wellbeing Navigators to support more than ten people for a period of about twelve months.
“I have moved forward in the last year more than I did in seven years. And it’s all because of you.”
Last year, one of our Healthy Futures clients was Royin, filmed here talking to his Wellbeing Navigator Ralph.
When Royin was two years old, he fell down the stairs and suffered a brain injury which caused life-changing disabilities. Despite doctors’ predictions that he would never be able to work, Royin went on to get a degree and a career in senior management.
The meetings, facilitated by Gateway and funded by the NHS South Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), have gone from being every three months to every month. Gateway supports the group committee to host a range of speakers, health and wellbeing activity sessions, entertainment and social activities.
Members of the group – which is also known as the Patient Health Forum or the Personal Health Forum – are living with, or caring for people who live with, a range of long term health conditions.
The forum provides an opportunity for people to meet others with similar issues, but it also gives them a voice and the chance to influence services by giving their local CCG insights and feedback about the health services they all use.
Last week we spoke to some of the group members to find out a bit more about them, and how they feel they benefit from going to the meetings.
Dennis started coming to the Long Term Conditions Group after what he refers to as a “mental breakdown”. Now, he’s a key member of the group – a committee member with a strong social network.
Four years ago, Dennis’s GP referred him to a Gateway Health Trainer for help with weight management. However, at this point in his life Dennis was also quite mentally unwell. He’d been isolating himself at home, and worrying, to the point where he was having suicidal thoughts.
Dennis’s stress and worry problems came to a head one night and he emailed several people to ask for help. First thing next morning, his Health Trainer Richard visited him at home and arranged crisis support, including an emergency psychiatric appointment and ongoing help from a home treatment team. And later, Richard also introduced Dennis to the South Birmingham Long Term Conditions Group.
Dennis says, “I hadn’t been out for years and years. My flat was my comfort zone. But Richard explained what the group was like and what it was for. He gave me the names of the people who ran it, and I went along.
“When I first started coming, it was difficult to speak to people. I was so nervous, I would just stay quiet. Then the committee gave me a job as a ‘meet and greet’ person. The first time I did that, I remember my hands shaking so much I spilled the tea.
“But over the next couple of years my confidence really built up. Now, I can stand up at the front of the group and make announcements, introduce people and thank the speakers.” He seems surprised at himself. “I even tell jokes!”
Dennis says he likes the group because although people have health issues and can talk about them if they want to, it’s not the focus of the meetings. He says, “We all know everyone has a reason to be here. We’ve all been through something, but you don’t have to talk about it. You can concentrate on the entertainment and the discussion.”
As Dennis is talking, the meeting is finishing and a stream of friends stops by to remind him to call them or meet up later in the week.
He says, “I don’t want to be dramatic but I really believe I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for this group. I haven’t had suicidal thoughts in ages. It’s a stepping stone, if you like, from having an illness to having something to look forward to.”
Membership of the Long Term Conditions Group is open to anyone who lives in South Birmingham, or is registered with a South Birmingham GP, and lives with a long term health condition. If you’d like to get involved, give us a call on 0121 456 7820 and ask to speak to someone about the Patient Health Forum.
Having employees who suffer from poor mental and physical health isn’t just bad for them – it can be bad for your business. Low wellbeing levels in the workplace can affect staff turnover, productivity and motivation.
That’s why we’ve put together a range Workplace Wellbeing Workshops, designed specifically for employees to improve their health and wellbeing at work.
Places are now available for a series of Workshops we’ll be running in June at our Edgbaston training rooms.
Choose from Resilience, Stress Management, Mindfulness and Healthy Lifestyles – and take advantage of a soothing 20% discount if you book all four!
Location: Gateway, 75 Harborne Road, Edgbaston
12 places available on each workshop £25 per person per workshop, or £80 per person for the whole day*
Call Jemma on 0121 456 7820 to book.
The four workshops, designed and delivered by Gateway’s health and wellbeing specialists, teach employees a range of basic wellbeing practices. Your staff will learn how to make small, preventative health changes that could have a big impact on working life.
During each bitesize session, we’ll get staff engaged in some fun and inspiring activities designed to promote health and wellbeing in the workplace. Using tried and tested behaviour change techniques, your employees will gain knowledge and skills that should help them to lead a happier and healthier lifestyle.
Read what others have to say
Some comments from previous participants about workplace wellbeing courses from Gateway:
“The tutor was really organised and set the work to a good pace.” — course participant, 2019
“I learnt a lot on the course and I can use this in my workplace.” — course participant, 2019
If you can’t make this date but you’d like to talk about other ways to support your employees’ wellbeing, give us a call. Gateway’s qualified, experienced health facilitators offer structured support around healthy eating, physical activity and exercise, smoking and alcohol intake, and stress management and we can tailor our range of workforce wellbeing packages for your needs.
Whether your staff need individual one-to-one support, group sessions or team workshops, there’s something for every workplace. How about a lunchtime health check, including on-the-spot blood pressure and BMI checks?
Or even a fun health day where staff get to compete in a Smoothie Bike Challenge?
Call now on 0121 456 7820 to find out more.
RSPH Level 2 courses: places still available
Thinking about learning how to support people with their health and wellbeing? Places are still available on our RSPH-accredited courses in Understanding Health Improvement, Encouraging a Healthy Weight and Healthy Eating and Understanding Behaviour Change later this month. For more information, call Jemma on 0121 456 7820 today.
We’re really pleased to announce that Gateway Family Services has been awarded the contract to provide Solihull’s Integrated Lifestyle Service for a minimum of three years from April 2019.
Gateway will be working with a number of partners to deliver a range of core lifestyle services to communities in Solihull, including health checks, weight management, smoking cessation, men’s health and health psychology.
These lifestyle services make up a significant part of Solihull’s new community wellbeing service: a broader partnership of voluntary and community organisations working together to improve the lives of Solihull residents. The new approach will promote self-care and independence, making it easier for people in Solihull to find information and advice, as well as providing specialist support for those who need it.
We are delighted that Solihull Council has chosen Gateway to lead the Integrated Lifestyle Service, an important part of the borough’s new community wellbeing service.
In doing so, we will be drawing upon our vast experience and years of expertise delivering health and wellbeing services like Health Trainers and Solihull Lighten Up. Since 2015, Solihull Lighten Up has helped more than 3,000 people with a range of needs – sometimes complex – to lose weight and make major lifestyle changes.
And our delivery of the Solihull Integrated Lifestyle Service will perfectly complement Gateway’s other services, like our Workplace Wellbeing services, health and wellbeing training courses, the Birmingham and Solihull Maternity Voices Partnership (BSol MVP) and the work our Peer Educators do with young people (Straight Talking).
As health and wellbeing experts, working in the local community for more than thirteen years, we know that the accessible, community-based approach that Solihull Council has chosen will be most beneficial for people’s health.
We’re looking forward to working with our new partners to deliver a top class service and supporting thousands more people in Solihull to a healthier lifestyle.
Unfortunately, we’ve had to stop taking referrals to our social prescribing service Healthy Futures again, leaving dozens of vulnerable people in Birmingham without support. Right now, we simply don’t have the money to continue.
Back in February, we announced that we would be continuing to fund the service using our own savings. At the time, we knew there was a risk we wouldn’t secure external funding before the allocated reserves ran out. Now, sadly, that risk has become a reality. We’ve had to stop taking referrals and our Wellbeing Navigators have spent the last two months winding down people’s support.
How Healthy Futures works
We have two Healthy Futures outreach workers, or Wellbeing Navigators: Ralph and Margaret, who work with people who’ve been referred by their GP. We work in partnership with SDSMyHealthcare, a consortium of GPs in Birmingham, and receive referrals from them and other organisations in the area.
Put bluntly, Healthy Futures clients are usually “frequent flyers” at their GP surgery — but it’s not medical help they need, it’s social.
When someone is referred into the service, Ralph or Margaret will go out to visit them and find out what they need.
Issues they support people with include housing (many are in hostels or temporary accommodation), financial hardship (many are entitled to benefits but are not receiving them, or have difficulty managing them), alcohol or substance misuse, and ongoing mental health issues like anxiety and depression. Some just need a bit of direction to help them start forming their own friendships and networks. The support given is practical, emotional and, importantly, builds people’s independence.
Here are some examples of the feedback we’ve had from Healthy Futures clients in just the last six weeks.
Judith* is in her 50s and unemployed:
I feel more positive and less confused about my benefits now, thanks for calling them today for me, and helping to sort it and update things with them. I feel like I have my mojo back. I think walking more is helping me too, and your support.
James* is in his 40s and has seen a few support workers over the years. He said to Ralph:
I have had a few issues and problems with support workers in the past, even still these days, but not with you. You don’t judge me, you listen to me, and I know how much you really want to help me. I can see that you really care.
Laura* is a mum in her 30s. She works full time but she and her child have been living in temporary accommodation:
I will look forward to my appointment with [the outreach worker] at Anawim [women’s centre], thanks so much for referring me to her, and telling me more about the support they provide. I am sure they will be of great help to me, like you. I am feeling upbeat.
Cath* is in her 50s and currently unable to work due to her depression:
Thanks so much, I really do feel the need to move on in my life now to look at volunteering and work, either temporary or otherwise. It’s thanks to you I feel like that. You have been so patient and supportive.
We know there is huge demand for the service; since February we have a steady stream of referrals from GPs.
And we know that the service works: an official study carried out in 2017 found that Healthy Futures is a cost-effective way to reduce the time people spend with their GP (when a social intervention is more appropriate), and significantly increases people’s self-reliance and self-care.
But, despite searching and applying for funding from many sources, we haven’t yet been able to secure any external funding and, unfortunately, we just can’t continue under our own steam.
A country in crisis?
Over the last year we’ve applied for many bids and tenders, and there are more in the pipeline, but haven’t won any funding for Healthy Futures so far. Occasionally we have been pipped to the post by larger organisations or partnerships whose reputation will allow them to reach more people — dare we say, it seems that quantity is sometimes given priority over quality.
We’ve even looked at crowdfunding — asking members of the public to donate — but really, should this be necessary?
Of course we understand that not every service can be funded, but it’s clear that more and more money is being needed across the third sector. Feedback tells us that every social fund we apply for is massively oversubscribed; for example, the Challenge Fund told us they had received more than twice as many applications as they’d been expecting. Building Connections told us they had a £9m budget but if they had funded everyone who applied they would have needed a £191m budget.
It feels like the country is in crisis when it comes to social support. It’s frustrating to watch and, believe us, even more frustrating to experience.
Watch the video
Watch the video below to find out how Margaret recently helped someone who had had to move house because of ill health, but found herself socially isolated in an area she didn’t know.
We know it can be hard to keep people motivated, especially after the Christmas break. That’s why we’ve come up with a range of tailored Workplace Wellbeing programmes that might just be able to help. Together, we’ll beat the winter blues!
Our qualified, specialised Health and Wellbeing Advisers have been working with people in the community for over a decade, and now we’re sharing that experience with employers.
For years, we’ve seen how better health and wellbeing leads to better resilience and confidence, which in turn helps people at work.
Statistics show that better workplace wellbeing can reduce absence and sickness levels, reduce risk before illness occurs, and improve staff retention and motivation.
You might like to start off with a light-hearted Health Taster Day, offering lots of fun activities over a day for people to pop in and try (including the famous Smoothie Bike)!
Or you may have an issue in mind that you’d like to address with your workforce, and be looking for something more structured – like our Preparing to Quit Smoking course.
Give us a call today and we’ll work with you to get to know your needs, and put together the perfect programme to help your staff. All our Workplace Wellbeing sessions are designed to create healthier, happier teams.
This winter, let’s stop the productivity slump before it happens!
For more information, or to book a visit, give our Workplace Wellbeing Manager Jemma a ring on 0121 456 7820.
Almost three quarters of smokers say they would like to quit.
But it’s not easy. More than a third (39%) go on to attempt it each year but only a small proportion (about 5%) successfully stop smoking.
However, did you know that with specialist support — for example from a structured smoking cessation course — smokers are up to four times more likely to successfully quit, compared to those who try and stop without any support?
That’s why we are using our extensive experience to provide tailored courses, held in the workplace, for businesses who want to help their employees to quit.
Over the last month, we’ve been helping groups of employees to prepare to give up smoking with some tailored Quit Smoking courses for Stoptober, but we’d love to extend this offer to more companies and workplaces.
Supporting your employees to stop smoking won’t just benefit their health – it will be benefit your business. According to Public Health England, people who smoke take an average of two or three days more sick leave per year. Together with lost productivity from regular cigarette breaks, employees who smoke are estimated to cost UK businesses £7.5 billion a year.
Smoking is something that Gateway’s health and wellbeing teams have been helping people with for many years (you might be interested in this blog post we published in 2013, The Smoking Challenge, about the ways in which our Health Trainers and Pregnancy Outreach Workers tackled the subject with the people they worked with). So we’ve used our extensive experience to design sessions that we know will engage people, and help them to build the confidence to make important changes.
As a not-for-profit CIC, any profit we make is reinvested in the education, employment, health and wellbeing of the people we work with across the West Midlands.
What happens on a smoking cessation course?
The smoking cessation courses that Gateway runs are led by a qualified smoking cessation facilitator and take place on site, at your place of work. We can accommodate up to 15 people per session and each session (which lasts around an hour) is tailored to the people in the group.
The sessions focus on preparation: the group leaders encourage people to look ahead to a time when they no longer smoke, and then they go through all the typical worries that smokers have about giving up.
For example, a lot of people worry about putting on weight, or struggling to control their mood swings — so there are sessions on managing stress and combating food cravings.
Mental wellbeing is very important so the courses cover the “Five Ways to Wellbeing”, too. It’s all about making lifestyle changes and feeling in control.
As well as the taught elements, there are plenty of opportunities for discussion — because we know from experience that sharing experiences and worries as a group really helps people to make positive changes. Like all of our work, these courses include a lot of client-led planning and support.
We can also help people to access further healthy activities if they want to (and they often do, once they start making changes!). We can even bring some fun healthy activities into the workplace, like the Smoothie Bike.
By looking ahead and focusing on behaviour change, Gateway smoking cessation courses build resilience and make sure people who want to give up smoking are as prepared as they can be when they finally quit. Statistics show that being prepared and following “stages” not only helps people to stop but, more importantly, helps the changes to stick.
If you’d like to support your employees to stop smoking, give Jemma Abbott at Gateway a call on 0121 456 7820 and ask about smoking cessation. We look forward to helping you create a healthier workplace!
#BrumFeeds aimed to collect 100 tonnes of food for Trussell Trust foodbanks, by holding the biggest single food donation the city has ever seen. Last Friday, people were encouraged to donate at three city centre locations for “The Big Drop”.
At Gateway, we decided that our contribution should focus on sanitary products. After all, we know that people don’t usually give as many toiletries as they do tins of beans! So office staff held a donation drive in our office, and on Friday we donated hundreds of tampons and sanitary towels to the #BrumFeeds collection point in Victoria Square. You can watch Caroline and Debbie dropping them off in the video below.
We always knew Brummies were a generous lot, but we were pleased to see how many people donated to the campaign. Birmingham Live reported that over a tonne of donations were made in just a few hours! We hope that our donation helped a little bit, and perhaps even raised people’s awareness of the problem of period poverty.
What is Period Poverty?
Put simply, period poverty is the problem of being unable to afford sanitary products.
A January 2018 report from Plan International UK says, “Period poverty has previously been seen as an external issue affecting lower income countries. However, in the context of austerity and the rise of homelessness and foodbank use, combined with a lack of supportive and accessible menstrual health management education, it is also being experienced here in the UK.”
Plan International UK’s survey on menstruation found that one in 10 (10%) of girls have been unable to afford sanitary products. It also found that:
One in seven girls (15%) have also struggled to afford sanitary wear.
One in seven girls (14%) have had to ask to borrow sanitary wear from a friend due to affordability issues.
More than one in ten girls (12%) has had to improvise sanitary wear due to affordability issues.
One in five (19%) of girls have changed to a less suitable sanitary product due to cost.
At Gateway, many of the people we work with are living with disadvantage. We know from our experiences with the Pregnancy Outreach Workers Service, and our current social prescribing service Healthy Futures, that women who are facing financial constraints will often go without themselves, so that their families can have food.
We fully support the efforts of charities like The Red Box Project, The Homeless Period and Bloody Good Period to try and dispel some of the myths and embarrassment surrounding periods, and to make tampons, towels and other related toiletries more accessible to everyone who needs them.
Why donate sanitary items to foodbanks?
We often refer people to Trussell Trust foodbanks, and we have our own small bank of food and toiletries for emergencies, but we know from experience that sanitary products are just not something people normally give when they donate to foodbanks.
Indeed, Trussell Trust includes sanitary products in its list of non-food donation items, saying “It’s natural that the first thing anyone thinks to donate to a foodbank is food, but toiletries and hygiene products are also extremely important. Alongside the standard food parcel, foodbanks try to provide […] essential non-food items to adults and children in crisis, helping them maintain dignity and feel human again.”
(“I, Daniel Blake” screenshot: IFC films via rightsinfo.org)
As we finish the last few Pre-Diabetes courses we’ve been running, results are starting to come in from the most recent participants. And – as with previous course attendees – we’re really proud of their results!
Since the pilot scheme in October 2015, which led to the programme being rolled out across the country, hundreds of people across Birmingham and Solihull have completed a Gateway Pre-Diabetes course.
So how does Gateway compare with national Pre-Diabetes programme delivery?
Really well, as it turns out!
Our conversion rate – that is, the number of people referred to us who actually started a course – is 68%. That’s nearly twice as high as the national average of 37.5%*.
Why? We think more people make a start with Gateway because we work closely with GPs, so they feel able to recommend us personally. Once someone is referred, as well as getting leaflets from their GP, they’ll also get a call from us to explain exactly what the course is about, and what’s in it for them.
Retention rate is one of the main measurements of success used by the National Diabetes Prevention Programme and, when the national programme was rolled out, the expected retention rate (from registration to completion) was 20%**. Ours is 78%.
Of the 858 people who started, 711 (83%) attended most of the sessions, and 665 people (78%) completed the course.
Why? Again, we think this is down to the personal touch. Attendees meet in person, in small groups led by an enthusiastic tutor, and the course has many interactive elements. Like all of Gateway’s services, our Pre-Diabetes course is client-led; we give people the facts and tools they need, take the time to find out more about their personal circumstances, and support them to find an approach that will work for them in the longer term.
The course has 13 sessions, but these are spread over seven months because research shows that a long term sustained approach is more likely to achieve behaviour change.
Social interaction, too, is a big part of the Gateway model. We know that when people with similar conditions get together and start talking about their experiences, they receive extra benefits that they wouldn’t get from making changes on their own. They are happier to talk about things like weight loss and physical exercise without feeling judged, and they inspire each other.
We’ve seen people who meet on the course start their own walking groups, share healthy recipes and exercise tips, and start good habits that spread throughout whole families!
Another key indicator of success for a pre-diabetes programme is weight loss, and we found that 46% of our attendees had lost weight by the end of the course, with 45% of those who lost weight losing more than 5% of their total body weight.
Finally, the most obvious measurement is the HbA1c reduction. Of the readings we’ve had back to date, 76% have shown a reduction, and 64% of those who reduced are no longer at risk of diabetes.
The Gateway Pre-Diabetes course is a great example of the Gateway service model. We focus on where the need is, and use our knowledge and networks to recruit not just the right number of people, but the people who need us. We use a data-driven approach to explore ways of delivering the service and we use outcomes based on individuals’ needs which don’t just get us the results that commissioners want, but improve satisfaction and retention rates.
Saving money for the NHS
Pre-diabetes courses are essential to save money for the NHS over the coming years by preventing what is, in fact, a really costly condition.
Annual diabetes outpatient costs, which include the cost of medications and monitoring supplies, are estimated at between £300 and £370 per patient. What’s more, the cost of prescribing medication for complications of diabetes is around three to four times the cost of prescribing diabetes medication. Annual inpatient care, to treat short and long term complications of diabetes, is estimated at between £1,800 and £2,500 per patient***.
Let’s use the example of a man who becomes diabetic at 60. In Birmingham, he is likely to live to 77, so he could have 17 diabetic years ahead of him. 17 x £300=£5,100. And that’s at a minimum – if his condition is poorly managed or he develops complications, the costs could rocket to over £20,000.
The cost of our intervention is as little as £270 per head, and that’s a one-off cost.
Sure, this social model has a slightly higher cost than one based on remote consultations, thanks to things like room hire, but we think it’s worth it, because it clearly brings better results. It also brings added value in the form of qualitative savings like the extra confidence and ability to engage in more social and physical activity.
Our weight management course with a difference, Lighten Up For Life, is currently recruiting for May – so if you live in Solihull, have a BMI over 30, and would like some specialist help… read on!
Like other weight management groups, Lighten Up For Life helps people to lose weight by providing a support group with information and regular weigh-ins. But there are some big differences too. For a start: it’s FREE!
Unlike many other groups, Lighten Up For Life provides support from a team of professional health specialists, including qualified Health Trainers, a Dietitian and a Behaviour Change Specialist who has formal training in health psychology.
The 12 Lighten Up For Life sessions include physical activities tailored for each group, ways to manage stress, tips about cooking healthy food on a budget, and even help to get your family on board. We welcome partners and family members at the sessions, because if they understand what changes you’re making and why, you’ll be more likely to stick to new routines. (And yes, it’s free for them too!)
Although Lighten Up For Life offers brilliant peer support, and you may even make some lifelong friends, this isn’t a club you’ll be going back to again and again. So in these 12 weeks, we’ll arm you with all the information, tools and support you need to make sure you and your family can continue to live more healthily in the long term.
Successes so far
Our first Lighten Up For Life groups started in January, and last week our very first group finished their 12 week course. Crucially, all of them say they’re confident that the changes they’ve made over the last three months are lifelong changes.
Group members have told us they feel more optimistic and more knowledgeable about leading a sustainable healthy lifestyle now, and that they’re more active than they had been before – even those who have been to other commercial weight loss groups in the past. We’re really proud of them!
Not only do they all have a greater understanding of government guidelines and how to implement them in their own lives, but they’ve got hands-on, practical knowledge too. Everyone in the group has been able to try new healthy alternatives to favourite treats, and everyone is sharing the information they have learnt with their families. Several members had brought their partners along for at least some of the sessions, and they also lost weight, which is really great to hear.
They’ve also made special mention of the social aspect of the group, so we’ve helped them to set up a WhatsApp group to continue this peer support, and we’ll be in touch in a few months’ time to see how they’re getting on.
Lighten Up For Life is a free 12 week programme, funded by Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council. The next groups are recruiting now and sessions will be at Bosworth Community Centre in Chelmsley Wood. If you’d like to join, call 0121 456 7820 and ask about the Lighten Up For Life 12 week course to find out if you are eligible.