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Gold, incentives and meh

Expert patient scheme boost

A Government-funded evaluation of the Expert Patient Programme has found it has significant benefits for patient care.

Patients on lay-led self-care courses were able to manage long-term conditions better than controls and had more 'energy' to do so, researchers found.

Their trial found self-efficacy scores increased from 52 to 60 points, and energy from 35 to 38.

Patients on the programme used healthcare only a little less than controls, but there were significant benefits for mental health, with scores for psychological wellbeing increasing from 61 to 65 points.

Dr David Reeves, senior statistician on the study and research fellow at the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre, said the study had found a range of benefits: 'Patients felt more confident they could manage their chronic illness after the course, had higher levels of energy and slightly reduced levels of using healthcare services.

'It does seem to work, but there's an issue about who it works for – we're not sure it works as effectively for everyone. The people who came along for the course happened to be middle class, so there's an issue about how you get to other groups of people.'

The Expert Patient Programme has been running for four years across England, led by people who have long-term conditions themselves.

Jim Philips, acting managing director of the programme, said: 'I think the important message to get across is that this is cost-effective and has a high satisfaction rate of people going on it.'

But he warned that the scheme was still in its infancy, was underfunded by some PCTs and overlooked by GPs.

'I think sometimes it can conjure up the image of demanding patients or ones who had looked up information for themselves, as opposed to what it's really about – someone who wants to co-operate with their GP as a partner in care.'

The study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health March issue.

Expert Patient Programme

• Established in April 2002,

with aim of helping people with long-term conditions to develop self-management skills

• Being delivered by all PCTs in England

• Courses run by people who

live with a long-term condition, running in two-hour sessions for six weeks

• So far 3,565 courses have been run, with 36,000 attendees

• DoH turning the scheme into

a community interest company, to go live at the beginning of April

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