Chapelthorpe Medical Centre Health Champions
We are a group of twelve people, recently increased to nineteen, from all walks of life who voluntarily give our time to help staff and patients at Chapelthorpe Medical Centre. We came together in May 2015 and our role is to work with the practice to improve the services offered and to identify new ways to help meet the health needs of patients at the practice.
We have helped the practice to gather information to increase the number of patients participating in the sharing in / sharing out scheme. We have started a project called Reception Welcomer, where in pairs, we spend about two hours a session talking to patients in reception. We do not target any particular category of patients, talking to the full range of people present. These sessions are spread over the working week and we try to do at least one a week. We encourage patients to register and use the on line facilities and to use the blood pressure testing equipment and the Green Kiosk in the reception area. We take the opportunity to tell patients about our group, what we are trying to achieve and encourage them to participate in our various activities. We also invite suggestions for improvement and new ideas. We help the practice to gather feedback from patients about how they rate the practice in the Friends and Family Test. At the Flu Clinic held in late Autumn we took the load off the practice staff by receiving patients and guiding them to the treatment rooms.
In November we started a Walk & Talk Group. This was our first solo venture and we learned a lot from this enterprise and gained a great deal of experience and confidence which we have been able to put into practice. The walks were initially led by Wakefield Council, but ten Champions undertook training as Walk Leaders and from January we took over responsibility for risk assessing, and leading the walks, and we now have a choice of eight different walks. Our initial idea was to address isolation, to provide some light exercise and the opportunity to meet new people and have a chat over a cup of coffee. We feel we have been successful with this, having formed a supportive and friendly group of people across the age ranges, where their physical ability has noticeably improved over the weeks they have attended. We meet weekly, walk for about fifty minutes and finish off with light refreshments. Originally the “Talk” part took place at Standbridge Community Centre, with Altogether Better funding the room hire, but we were very pleased to have negotiated an arrangement with the Practice to use the upstairs meeting room for refreshments. We normally get four to five walkers each week. Responding to feedback we are looking to also offer a shorter walk catering for patients who can only manage a walk of say twenty minutes. At the other extreme we are also looking into offering the opportunity to more energetic and possibly younger patients to take up Nordic walking.
We started a Carers Group in February with the aim of enabling Carers to have a short respite and an opportunity to meet with fellow Carers to share experiences and gain support and encouragement. The group meets twice a month at Standbridge Community Centre with a guest speaker monthly, including the Matron Peter Hunter, Wakefield Carers Group and Flexicare at Home. Future topics will include Wakefield Five Towns Recovery Section, Healthwatch Wakefield, the Alzheimer’s Society, and Care Links and Aids & Adaptations for the home. Over the seven meetings held, the average number of Carers attending is four. Some have also brought along their “cared for” and they have been welcomed and have fully participated. To aid our understanding of the problems facing Carers, three Champions have attended a Dementia Awareness Day and four more are planning to do so. The cost of room hire has been funded by Altogether Better who have given us considerable support in setting up our new ventures. We approached local businesses for support and recently received a donation of £200 from Asda under their Chosen by You tokens scheme.
Early this year, two Champions attended a Social Prescribing seminar in London. This led to one of them being invited to attend the launch of the Social Prescribing Report in Westminster and to have a speaking role to recount her experience as a Health Champion. Other speakers included Dr Michael Dixon member of the steering committee, Dr Marie Polley from the University of Westminster, Dr Patrick Hutt from NHS City and Hackney CCG, Sarah Whittle Rotherham CCG and Ruth Tucker North Devon CCG. A common theme was the importance of communication between different professionals to help patients. It was quite an occasion to have our practice represented at such a prestigious event. In April another Champion accompanied Dr Harries on a visit to the Bromley by Bow Centre for a presentation on the unique way that centre is run.
We have arranged with Wakefield Council to have a Physical Activities Taster session. This consists of low impact aerobics, chair based exercise, chair based Zumba and Boccia. The aim is for some Champions to be trained up so that they can deliver all or some of these activities, either forming new groups or integrating them into our existing groups, particularly the Care Group. Other new ventures in the pipeline are a Singing Group and a Film Club.
We are proud of what we have achieved so far. From very diverse backgrounds we have formed a really strong and effective team, supporting and encouraging each other to use our individual strengths for the benefit of the group overall. We have also formed a good working relationship with the practice and are grateful for the support received. We are looking forward to absorbing the new intake of Champions, and benefiting from their new ideas and expertise, to enable us to consolidate our existing ventures and be successful with new ones.