As part of the CCG’s commitment to engage with a wide range of communities within Birmingham and Solihull, we are working in partnership with Gateway Family Services, a non-profit community interest company, which supports the committee of the Patient Health Forum.
This relationship has helped the CCG to directly capture the views and opinions of the Patient Health Forum; a diverse group of people living with a long-term health condition.
The Patient Health Forum gives a great opportunity for people from a wide range of backgrounds to get together with others and talk about their health condition, as well as give their feedback on health services. By talking directly to patients with long-term conditions, we are able to ask them to help us with the design, improvement and review of health services, enabling them to draw upon their own experiences and expertise.
The group, based in Stirchley, is open to anyone living with a long-term health condition in Birmingham, which could be anything from asthma to arthritis or Alzheimer’s to anxiety.
Here are some case studies of just a few local people who benefit from attending the Patient Health Forum:
Case study: Leslie
Case study: Leslie
Leslie, who is in his 50s, is sole carer for his wife who has Alzheimer's. He was referred to the Patient Health Forum by his GP, who felt he needed some support after experiencing isolation.
After attending the forum, he has been to every meeting since. He enjoys socialising there, and finds it useful to be able to talk to other people about his wife’s condition and his own situation as a carer. The meetings also include speakers from other agencies and community groups, so Leslie has been able to access further information and speak to support providers directly.
You can read more about how the Patient Health Forum has helped Leslie here.
Case study: Dennis
Case study: Dennis
Dennis started coming to the Long Term Conditions Group after what he refers to as a “mental breakdown”. Now, he’s a key member of the group – a committee member with a strong social network.
Although he was initially very nervous, and found it very difficult to speak to other people, his confidence has grown over time and he now often takes the responsibility of making announcements to the entire group.
You can read more about how the Patient Health Forum has helped Dennis here.
Case study: Valerie
Case study: Valerie
Valerie was directed to the Long Term Conditions Group 13 years ago by course leaders at the Hazelwell Hub in Kings Heath, where she had been on a self-management course to help her manage her deteriorating eyesight. She’s been a regular ever since.
The group has provided important emotional and social support over the years, especially since the passing of her husband. Like many other group members, she finds that the friendly but discreet and respectful atmosphere makes it easier to talk to others about her feelings.
You can read more about how the Patient Health Forum has helped Valerie here.
How can I get involved?
To get involved, please contact Gateway Family Services on 0121 456 7820. The meetings are held monthly at: The Common Room, Pitleasow Close, Stirchley, Birmingham B30 2SJ.
Patient Health Forum during COVID-19
Since March, Gateway has been supporting the Patient Health Forum remotely.
In mid-March, all Forum members were contacted with the offer of a monthly wellbeing check/social call in lieu of the regular meetings, and almost all of the 50 or so members accepted. A week later, when it became clear that most members would have to isolate because they are over 70 or otherwise vulnerable, these check-ins became weekly.
Over the past couple of months, many Forum members opted out of the calls as they felt they already had good support from friends, family and neighbours, but by the end of May Gateway continued to support around 15 people.
Most of the calls are social but many are also practical. Amongst other things, Gateway has helped people to find out more about the benefits they are entitled to, have their medication delivered, register as vulnerable on the NHS website, get in touch with a chiropodist, and start online shopping.
The calls are also empowering people, giving them the chance to be helpful to others as well as benefiting themselves. Becky, a Social Prescribing Link Worker with Gateway, said: "One individual was fantastic about sharing their local information about food and pharmacy deliveries with me, and I then passed this on to others who have benefited. They definitely saw themselves as contributing to our community knowledge rather than receiving from me."
Kath, who is also a Social Prescribing Link Worker, pointed out another unexpected benefit of the crisis. "Some of the patients said they had reconnected with friends and family they hadn't spoken to for a while. One person was pleased they'd actually had a two-hour conversation with their daughter, who had previously been too busy to visit or pick up the phone."
Forum members repeatedly express how grateful they are for the continued support. One said, "I appreciate your time, it was nice to talk. Before you called I was feeling a bit forgotten by services. Keep up the good work. It matters."
Responses from service users during COVID-19
Ann M: "This call means the world to me. It breaks up my boredom and cheers me up. I enjoy having a natter and a grumble; it stops me from getting depressed, so I look forward to it. I miss the Patient Health Forum; seeing everyone there and the lunches."
Ann V: "I'm glad for the call. I don’t have a TV in my house, just a radio, but I'd usually be out meeting my friends. Not being able to chat much to people can get lonely, but this call helps me to speak to someone."
Yasmin M: "This call helps me if I need additional information, or when I am not sure about things like support for my disabled daughter. I'm happy to have a chat and you've helped me with your advice on how to keep myself busy doing jigsaws and mandala colouring. I really miss the Patient Health Forum gatherings so thank you for checking up on me weekly, it means a lot."
Pat H: "Great to hear that someone cares; that we are not shut up and put away. I am happy I belong to some clubs including the Patient Health Forum. They are checking up on me which is a really nice thought especially in these difficult times."
Ann R: "It means a lot to me when you call. When you don’t see people it's lovely to get a call out of the blue and have good chat. I have been feeling lonely and isolating does not help the situation. Thank you, I look forward to next week's chat."
Valerie S: "It's really kind of you to check up on me and make sure I am OK. It means a lot that you're taking the time to ring me up."
Bill L: "A big thank you to you and Gateway for calling me, especially in these difficult times."
Updates from previous meetings
This month’s Forum was led by Marc Baggott, Gateway’s Project Coordinator for the Straight Talking Peer Education Project. Latifah Stone, from Healthwatch, told the Forum about how Healthwatch gathers patient feedback to help improve NHS services. Attendees also enjoyed a spring themed quiz.
Due to current circumstances, the date for the next Patient Health Forum is to be confirmed.
This month’s Forum was led by Marc Baggott, Gateway’s Project Coordinator for the Straight Talking Peer Education Project. Katherine Hewitt, Chief Executive of Gateway, talked about the new Link Workings will be working within Primary Care Networks across Birmingham.
A Link Worker colleague explained the role to the group, and told everyone how Link Workers help people who attend local GP surgeries. The next Forum will take place on 12 March.
This month’s Forum was a members’ session, which featured some meditation at the beginning of the session. The group was informed about the Link Workers Service, part of the social prescribing offer to patients, which Gateway Family Services will be providing in various areas of Birmingham.
The group also discussed issues including: transport; benefit information; mental health support; and health and safety advice – especially in their own homes. The next Forum will take place on Thursday 13 February.
The Christmas party took place this month, with lots of singing and dancing, and even a visit from Father Christmas. A great time was had by all! Members also got to chat to Gemma Rauer, Assistant Director of Communications and Engagement, and Jen Weigham, Senior Communications and Engagement Manager, from NHS Birmingham and Solihull CCG.
Here is Gemma and Keith.
This month, the group was joined by the Music Men, who sang old favourites for members of the Patient Health Forum to sing and dance along to. Information on local mental health services was also shared with the group. The next meeting, on Thursday 12 December, will host the Christmas party.
The group welcomed a guest speaker from Salus Fatigue Foundation, who shared information on support for those who are affected by a range of fatigue conditions. They were provided with details of local support sessions, and information on their new Wellbeing Hub which will be available soon to help those who suffer with chronic pain.
The next meeting will be held on Thursday 14 November 2019.
This month, the group had an open session where everyone shared useful local information, including details of benefit agencies, housing, caring, local communities and lunch clubs, and services for everyone. The Forum also agreed the date for the Christmas party, which will take place on Thursday 12 December 2019.
The group welcomed a guest speaker from the Birmingham Carers Hub, who spoke about the different services they provide for carers, and those being cared for. Members of the Forum also heard about the proposed changes to adult services across Solihull, Good Hope and Heartlands Hospitals. Although there were some concerns, the group felt that the impact on them would be very limited.
The group were updated on the Neighbourhood Network Scheme, followed by a storytelling session. The meeting ended with a short guided meditation session, which has proven to be very popular; members of the group have now started to lead the meditation sessions themselves!
The group was joined by guest musicians Tim and Mel, who entertained the group with a range of covers from over the decades, which led to a sing-along session.
The group welcomed a guest speaker from Enable Holidays Company, who spoke about the services they provide to customers with physical disabilities.
The guest speaker at April's meeting was from Forward Carers (Birmingham Carers consortium). Many members of the group have caring responsibilities, so there were lots of questions and Forward Carers provided some helpful signposting suggestions.
The group undertook some activities to benefit the body and mind; with some chair-based exercise and a guided meditation session. Attendance was particularly strong this month!
Age UK came to give a talk about entitlements and additional help that older people can receive. Support staff from Gateway Family Services prepared a healthy lunch for Forum members.
At the 11 October 2018 meeting, the Patient Health Forum enjoyed the second of their "Five ways to wellbeing and guided meditation" session. Members also chatted to Anita Fellows, the CCG's Senior Patient Experience Manager.
At the 13 September 2018 meeting, the Patient Health Forum were treated to the first of two "Five ways to wellbeing and guided meditation" sessions.
At the 9 August 2018 meeting, the Patient Health Forum held their NHS70 celebration, marking the 70th birthday of the NHS. The group enjoyed cake, dancing and talked about their memories of the NHS.
At the 19 April 2018 meeting, the Patient Health Forum talked with members of the Communications and Engagement Team from Birmingham and Solihull CCG, finding out about the new organisation which was formed on 1 April 2018 and is the largest CCG in England.