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Listening to Julie, our wonderful reception colleague who is now also a Health Coach and Care Connector extraordinaire talking about the twelve people she has seen makes me feel so proud of both her and our ‘Churchdown Connections’ social movement. You can’t underestimate the leap of faith she took in bravely fronting our work to develop our non-medical care model to improve people’s lives and also free up clinical time to focus on delivering better medical care to our population. Integral to our project gaining traction within our community and practice has been my inspiring GP colleague, Sharon. She has driven our work with a belief and passion that people’s lives can be improved when they take ownership, are activated

and healthcare workers understand ‘what matters to me’ rather then just ‘what is the matter with you?’. We have barely scratched the surface, but how did we get to this point?

After the initial euphoria of being a successful Q Exchange bid back in September, the hard work and reality of making it happen started. How do you change the culture of a medical practice with traditional roles of receptionists, nurses and doctors to one that offers both excellent medical care and also embraces our many community assets which can often better meet people’s needs? Winning the money was helpful in a pump priming fashion, but more important was Sharon’s compelling narrative that people’s lives could really be improved by non-medical interventions. The trick was identifying the right people who would benefit, building up our in house coaching and connecting expertise (Julie) and helping to connect up those people’s non-medical challenge with the right community support. Sounds easy …

After the initial euphoria of being a successful Q Exchange bid back in September, the hard work and reality of making it happen started.

Most readers will be aware of the acute pressure being experienced by primary care and our practice is no exception. Not only are we trying to meet increasing patient demand, like many practices, we are also faced with the dual challenge of recruiting and retaining staff. Both the staff and patient demand factors mean that people are busy trying to do the day job and can have little ‘headspace’ to think how things could be done differently. In addition, moving from a traditional reception role to becoming a health coach and connector seemed daunting and would take many people out of their comfort zone. In other words, we have been building the aeroplane whilst flying it.

In the best traditions of quality improvement, our first task was to visit somewhere that was ahead of us. Given the complexity of our ambition, this was not a case of ‘stealing shamelessly’ from others, but rather to go and understand the building blocks of a successful model. So in November, we visited Frome which was illuminating and gave us an opportunity to spend an invaluable 3 hours in the car together.

Over the coming months, I plan to share the progress that we have made (including interview requests for Julie from ITV!) and how key milestones have shaped the project.

Watch this space …

Curchdown Connections received funding from Q Exchange for their project to empower patients to self-care by training a member of staff in health coaching skills, mapping community assets and facilitate connections between patients and community-based peer support groups. You can find our more and connect with the project via their project page. 

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