Milton Keynes takes part in the national Self Care Week. But as well as running events around the district, the council and CCG have also run a super local version on one of the most deprived estates in the area. This forms part of our resource on self care.
Self care has been of interest to the council and local NHS in Milton Keynes for some time. In 2017, the two bodies agreed to work together more formally, forming a steering group with other local partners, including Healthwatch MK and local GPs.
The group helped to organise a range of activities for Self Care Week in 2017. This included a toolkit for staff and a public health campaign promoted across social media and in the local press. One part of the campaign was aimed at promoting the alternatives to the GP, such as the pharmacy, the NHS website and NHS 111.
But the group was also aware that some of the most deprived communities were the most difficult to reach and least likely to get involved in events like these.
Pharmacist Sonal Mehta, who is the lead for self care for the CCG, said: “We decided we wanted to do something on the super local level. Self care can be a funny topic. People don’t know that it covers many different activities, but once you explain it they really understand it. We knew we had to do something different to reach out to hard-toreach communities.”
The Lakes Estate was chosen to pilot this approach. It is among the 10 per cent most deprived neighbourhoods in the country with half of children living in poverty. The estate was built in the 1960s and is now home to about 5,000 people living in 2,200 homes.
Working with her colleagues from Milton Keynes Council’s public health team, Julia Banham and Liz Wilson, and Bletchley and Fenny Stratford Town Council, Ms Mehta engaged with youth club leaders, residents groups and the local school. A joint group – the Lakes Estate Self Care Group – was formed and together they began to plan a special calendar of events for Self Care Week in 2017 to take place on the estate.
The main focus of the events was the community centre and GP surgery. National charities, including Age UK and Brook, had information stands and ran clinics, while there was a healthy eating and nutrition stall at both sites offering advice alongside fresh fruit and other healthy snacks, donated by the local supermarket. An interactive game was also set up. The purpose of the game was to allow the team to engage with the public and have conversations about self care. It was based around finding solutions for common ailments by navigating a ‘treatment path’ across a board. Players were given a bear with logos for NHS 111 and the local pharmacy for taking part.
Ms Mehta said it was an “incredibly successful” week. “The game worked really well in particular. It was a great ice-breaker. We had lots of people coming to look at the displays and engaging. What was really pleasing was that each day we would end up having really in-depth conversations with five to 10 people about self care. There was no cost – just people’s time. It goes to show that you don’t always need a bucketful of resources.”
But it did not end there. Since Self Care Week, the team has returned and run events at the local school. They include health and wellbeing sessions during the induction days for the new intake.
Ms Mehta said: “They’ve just been about reenforcing healthy messages and making sure parents and children understand self care. When children start school there are always lots of bugs and illnesses flying around.”
Since Self Care Week has taken place, the team has continued to meet with residents of the Lakes Estate. Ms Mehta said: “We have a number of people involved, but it became clear it was perhaps not working as well as it could. We had a formal meeting structure and I think that was putting some people off. We found ourselves only engaging with the most active and involved people in the community. “It got us thinking about how else we could engage different people. We are now looking at changing things a bit by linking in with some of the existing groups, like coffee mornings, and engage them that way. You need to think outside the confines of your normal way of working.”
How is the approach being sustained?
The Lakes Estate is undergoing a major regeneration programme with parts of the estate being demolished and homes being rebuilt. That has allowed the self care group to tap into that process to help them build on what has been achieved.
A housing needs assessment was carried out during 2018, which saw residents answer questionnaires. The self care group was able to get a number of health-related questions included.
Ms Mehta said: “It gave us some really good ideas about what the needs were. There was a lot of loneliness and anxiety – and general mental health problems. We are now going to focus on those in our next initiative. We will be repeating our local Self Care Week next time. But it will be in three areas instead of just one. We know this is an effective way to approach this.”
Ms Wilson agrees. “Self care awareness is key to prevention, being part of the local project has been as much of an education for us about how we work with local communities in the future.”
Sonal Mehta Self Care Lead
Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group