Have you ever experienced any difficulties getting an appointment with your GP? At some point or other most of us have heard about or have experienced a long wait to see a professional and sometimes when we actually get in front of a GP we leave feeling as though we haven’t been “fixed”. Frustrating isn’t it?
We all know that the NHS is under huge pressure, but why is this and what can us mere mortals do to help?
The birth of the NHS
The NHS is a wonderful thing, when it was introduced back in 1948 the primary function was to cure illness. Health care professionals would treat us, give us some medicine to make us better and send us on our merry way.
The good news is that over the year’s medicine and advancements in medical science has improved massively leading us to live longer, and a vast majority of illnesses that once were quite serious now have a cure.
However, concern comes from the fact that the population is shifting. Did you know that between 2012 and 2032 the population of people aged 85 and over is set to increase by 106%? Which is pretty staggering.
Nature of disease has changed
The nature of disease has also seen some changes over the years. Nowadays a huge percentage of the population are living with more than one long term condition.
A long term condition is something that cannot be treated or cured. It is persistent, chronic and requires many more appointments, tests, medications and follow ups than other health issue. Unfortunately due to a large amount of lifestyle factors we are now diagnosed with long term conditions much sooner, usually within our 50’s!! That means that if we are living to the ripe old age of 85, well that’s a lot of time spent in appointments.
Low mental health
There is also another real issue that is putting pressure on front line services and this is poor mental health. Whether it’s through loneliness as a result of old age or as a product of the stresses and strains placed upon our lives through today’s society, mental health issues are becoming increasingly prevalent.
Gp’s frequently report that a lot of their appointments are taken up by people who are experiencing low level depression, anxiety or loneliness, and a lot of the time they feel powerless to help. Often the cure to a lot of these issues lies outside of the medical environment and the road to recovery can be found much closer to home in our communities, our social connections and through seeking support from “people like me”.
So if the medical environment is stretched and can’t always fix all of our ills, other than throwing more money at the system what can we do as people, as communities and as patients ourselves to help?
Here in Tameside and Glossop we have a team dedicated to help answer some of these questions. The Person and Community Centred Approaches team recognises the power of people and communities in helping us to stay healthy and well connected. The work of the team is focussed not only on strengthening and harnessing this power, but also around giving the health care system a real shake to open up the doors and let folk in to help.
But what about those GP appointments?
Wellbeing in Practice is a programme that helps health services and local people find new ways of working together. Patients from within their GP practice are invited in to use their, skills and experience to find different ways of working together, improving services, lives and health.
On this programme local people gift their time as health champions. The champions work alongside health professionals to reshape services, opening up new possibilities and working together to provide a range of original activities and support for other patients.
The champions are a team of local people that help to meet those non-clinical needs, for example isolation, loneliness or learning to cope and live well with a long term condition. As a result this can mean some patients need to see their GP less often because their needs are being met differently and they are seeking better support outside of the GP consultation room.
So far we have 7 practices up and running with the Wellbeing in Practice model in Tameside and Glossop and are about to work with 2 more over the next month. The champions are a growing army of proactive support heroes who are already doing a wealth of good things in their local area.
Just like the M.A.D Hatters group pictured above. Hattersley Make A Difference sessions creates a range of cards and crafts to give to people going through a tough time.
New way of seeing the world
Wellbeing in Practice feels like a big step in the right direction. It’s a new way of seeing the world, releasing new talents and improving health care through working together. It’s probably not going to change the NHS overnight but if we are able to join forces, slowly but surely this will have big impacts on the world around us and how we get the support we need.
So the next time you are in your GP practice have a little look around. Do you have a team of champions working in your practice? Are there other “non-clinical” initiatives taking place to help other patients? If so why not get involved, and if not same question, why not get involved?
Come, join our movement, we all have a lot to give.
To find out more about the Wellbeing in Practice programme email email@example.com