Healthwatch working to reduce hospital visits for Fibromyalgia sufferers in North Somerset

Independent patient watchdog Healthwatch North Somerset has led a pilot project to improve and help patients with long term health conditions in North Somerset. The project has been welcomed by patients to help them to self-manage their condition.

Image 1 - Participants of the seven-week Patients in Control programme funded by Healthwatch North Somerset in December 2015
The project, which could be rolled out to include help for sufferers of other long-term health conditions, has begun by focussing on those with fibromyalgia. Patients were invited to take part in the new Patients in Control programme which sought to engage and empower individuals by enabling them to participate in a tailored programme according to their health and wellbeing needs.

The seven week programme was written in conjunction with fibromyalgia sufferers and involved 13 patients from across North Somerset including Weston, Clevedon and Portishead. Patients also teamed up with volunteer buddies to provide practical, social and emotional support.

Jacky Evans, aged 58 from Portishead who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2012, said: “It’s like I’ve been walking around in a bit of a fog since I was told I had this condition. The course has given me a focus, provided company and a new support network of others who really understand what I’m going through.

“In addition, the practical information has been so helpful and it was so nice to know that I wasn’t the only one suffering and I feel more informed and a bit more positive about the changes I’m facing as a result of my diagnosis now.”

A number of patients signed up to be volunteer buddies and deliver course materials to other patients, including Elizabeth Farron of the charity North Somerset Fibromyalgia Support Group. She said:

“It’s been brilliant that Healthwatch North Somerset have funded this programme for sufferers of fibromyalgia which is known as the invisible condition. The course has helped participants to reduce isolation, manage their condition and enabled them to take greater control of their health and wellbeing as a result of information and support provided throughout the course.”

Eileen Jacques, Chief Officer at Healthwatch North Somerset, noted the importance of the pilot:

“There is a real gap with provision of this nature in North Somerset and I’m delighted to be able to support this initiative with the intention of helping patients with this long-term health condition to self-manage, in view of reducing the frequency of GP and hospital visits.Healthwatch North Somerset are here to support the health and wellbeing of local residents and I hope that this is the first of many such innovative programmes that we can continue to deliver.”

This approach taken by Healthwatch North Somerset focuses on a collaborative approach between expert patient advisors, clinical leads and volunteer tutors and has been project managed by Lorna Muffett, Programme and Operations Manager from Voluntary Action North Somerset (VANS).

The pilot programme for fibromyalgia sufferers has recently finished and those who have taken part where invited to a celebratory lunch this week in Portishead. The final evaluation is being formulated with a view of the programme being rolled out throughout North Somerset to those with other long term health conditions.