Headlines: January 14th, 2005

The NHS has launched a campaign to encourage people to manage their own health problems with support from professionals. The blueprint for self management, ‘Supporting People with Long Term Conditions – Improving Care, Improving Lives’, describes the benefits of adopting a proactive approach towards general healthcare. The document is aimed at the 17 million people with asthma, diabetes and other long-term conditions, which cannot be cured, but can be treated with drugs and therapy. It also gives guidance for people with minor ailments and for those who want to improve their lifestyles.Changes within the NHS will seek to embed a self care strategy in the organisation to foster the empowerment of patients and the public who have not sought any professional help. The NHS will also make increasing use of more traditional self care support programmes, such as nurse-led classes educating newly diagnosed patients about their condition. Support for the self care strategy will also come from the new service “NHS Direct Interactive” which was launched last month. It has about 3000 pages of health, self care and NHS services information and advice in text and pictures, plus a variety of video clips. It is available to nearly 8 million households just by pressing the “interactive” button on their TV remote.

Another move towards the strategy was made last week with the announcement that a new role of ‘community matron’ would be created. This new type of health professional will have the task of giving one-to-one support to the most vulnerable patients with long-term conditions. They will monitor their patient’s health, anticipate problems and co-ordinate the care and support they need to achieve a better quality of life. The NHS is committed to having 3,000 community matrons in place by March 2007. Multi-professional teams will be set up to identify all of the people in their area with a serious long-term term condition, assess their needs as early as possible, and provide pro-active care before their condition deteriorates.