Self help programmes: What happens next?
CLAHRC-NDL with Self Help Nottingham (a local Third Sector infrastructure organisation for peer support groups) has started to explore, using focus groups and telephone interviews, what happens at the end of self management programmes.
Previous research indicates that whilst people find it useful to attend self management courses such as the Expert Patient Programme in the short term, the highly structured nature of these programmes has often been criticised. Preliminary findings from the CLAHRC-NDL study indicate that whilst the technical aspects of the courses are beneficial (for example dietary advice and information on the pain cycle) participants actually found the social support and opportunity to become less isolated to be of most value. They also discussed how self management programmes helped them to have more control over their interactions with health care professionals and in seeking help from appropriate services – repositioning professionals (as Winston Churchill put it) to be ‘on tap’ rather than ‘on top’.
However, attending a six week course did not, on its own, make people into self managers. Participants were clear that without the social interaction and support the courses offered, it was difficult to maintain what they had learnt. Sharing experiences within the structured framework of a course (e.g. knowing you had to be at a meeting every Thursday afternoon) was one of the most beneficial aspects of it. This preliminary finding was supported by participants both from the focus groups and telephone interviews.
Participants identified that having follow-on peer support groups, telephone interactions and online support groups would be useful to them in moving towards becoming self managers. One limitation of the current study is that those who have taken part are individuals who see a value in belonging to a community of like minded people. Future research which explores the views of individuals who have found engaging with a group setting difficult - or who have not actively sought out self management programmes - would be useful to compare with the information obtained from this study.
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Posted on Wednesday 29th February 2012