In Cheshire, two CCGs and the council have worked together to engage the wider local community in self care by recruiting a network of champions and setting up a Self Care Award to entice employers to get involved. This forms part of our resource on self care.
When Noreen Caldwell started working as the public engagement and involvement manager for NHS South Cheshire CCG and NHS Vale Royal CCG two years ago, she recognised the self care agenda was a key priority. But to have an impact she would need the help of others to spread the message.
Ms Caldwell said: “Self care is something you need the whole community to get involved with. You cannot just have it driven by the NHS or local council, you need the wider public, the police and voluntary sector engaged.”
Her first step was to recruit self care champions. The aim was to create a network of experts who could advocate the importance of the issue and explain to the public about what self care means.
Half-day workshops were set up to train the champions. The first to sign up were the council’s local community development team, but these have since been followed by police officers, members of local charities, GP practice staff and members of the local Healthwatch branch.
As well as promoting self care messages as part of their day-to-day work, the champions were instrumental in helping Ms Caldwell run Self Care Week in 2017. Stalls were run in community venues and local supermarkets, leisure providers ran taster sessions and GP practices engaged their patients.
She said: “We had a fantastic response to Self Care Week. It was the first time we had done it and with the champions on board we were able to get all sorts of conversations going and people thinking about what they could do. There was a big emphasis on physical activity. But afterwards we decided we wanted to do something to engage educational establishments and businesses even more to build on what had been achieved.”
This then led to the creation of a local Self Care Award. There are three levels – bronze, silver and gold – to reward how active each organisation has been. They are open to both the public and private sectors.
To achieve bronze, the organisation needs to appoint a self care champion and send them to one of the workshops and start drawing up an action plan. Silver requires the organisation to start actively promoting the benefits of physical activity, while for gold they must introduce measures to take mental health and wider wellbeing.
In little over a year, more than 70 self care champions have been trained, and the local community development team at the council has taken it a step further by running workshops themselves.
Councillor Janet Clowes, Cheshire East’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Integration, said the council saw it as a “really exciting opportunity” to address health inequalities. She said staff have used it to go on to work on a number of specific projects, including:
- helping young mums eat healthily on a tight budget
- encouraging the LGBTQ community to become more physically and socially active
- working with older people on nutrition, diet and domestic violence.
And she said the work has continued to reap benefits. “Many of the people have continued to get together and carry on supporting each other in their self care journeys which is fantastic.”
Meanwhile, the award has started gaining traction. Three schools have achieved bronze with another 10 expected to get the accreditation soon.
The first school to gain the accreditation was Audlem St James Church of England Primary School. The school ran a session at the start of the school holidays on the best ways to say ‘sunsafe’ during the summer.
Headteacher Rebecca Jewitt said they based the advice around the five S’s – slip, slop, slap, slide and shade. “Our pupils are knowledgeable about how to be sun smart and look after themselves. The awards are great – and we’re looking forward to working towards our silver and gold.”
Local businesses have also started signing up, including the local Nantwich Museum, which is in the process of training its army of volunteers. Museum manager Elliot Goodger said it was great to be involved. “The museum is at the heart of the community. We are part of it and will do what we can to help improve the health and wellbeing of local people.”
In delivering the workshops and getting the self care message out there, Ms Caldwell has worked hard to make the messages relatable.
One of the most effective methods has been a visual prompt based around the message that it does not cost much to take care of minor ailments at home. For £10, a range of medicines, including painkillers, antihistamines, diarrhoea relief, constipation relief, throat lozenges and antacid, have been purchased and attached to a board.
“It has really struck home,” said Ms Caldwell. “I have used it in the workshops and when I am talking to the public. It really gets people thinking – especially when you consider the cost of a prescription.”
How is the approach being sustained?
Ms Caldwell said the main goal going forward is to build on what has been achieved so far. Talks are under way with one of the major employers in in the region to get them on board with the Self Care Award.
“Students are one group of our local population that we haven’t engaged with as much as others – I think they believe that they’re indestructible. Based on this, we’re going to deliver some focused engagement with Cheshire Colleges to get these self care messages out there to our students.”
Public Engagement and Involvement Manager
NHS South Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Vale Royal Clinical Commissioning Group