How I...set up a men’s health session in our local pub
Attracted by the offer of free beer, 80 men attended Dr Martin Toynbee’s ‘MOT for Men’ evening aimed at promoting their health
Attracted by the offer of free beer, 80 men attended Dr Martin Toynbee's ‘MOT for Men' evening aimed at promoting their health
I work in a practice of eight partners (one part-time) operating from three surgeries nestling just north of the South Downs in Sussex, and serving a population of more than 14,000 patients in the villages of Hurstpierpoint, Hassocks, Ditchling and surrounding villages.
As in many areas, our male patients are much less likely to use our services and our patient participation group felt that the local men should be made more aware of their health. The group had organised other health awareness events and this one was planned to coincide with Men's Health week. The practice fully supported this, as although we very nearly achieve maximum QOF points we are also concerned about the individual health of our patients now and for the rest of their lives, and that is simply not addressed by incentive schemes such as QOF which to some extent can be regarded as the lowest common denominator.
Along with Maura Preece, the practice information manager, and practice nurses Alison Sallis and Carol Garton, the patients' participation group devised a fun evening for men to be made aware of their health. Several meetings of the group and the practice nurses resulted in a programme of health topics to be covered in a health questionnaire – which we called the MOT for Men. The nursing staff were enthusiastic about taking part in the evening and devised the male MOT. They were paid overtime for the evening's work.
How it worked
The evening involved taking over half of one of the village pubs for the evening and setting up 10 ‘stations', which participating men had to visit and complete their MOT. The pub landlord needed no persuasion as his wife is a member of the patient participation group.
The pub has a public bar, a saloon bar and what was a restaurant area. We set up our ‘stations' in the restaurant area and then retired to the saloon bar once we had finished. There were other customers in the pub, and the male customers were all invited to participate – and most did.
As an incentive, and, let's admit it, a publicity stunt, we said the first 30 men to complete their MOT would receive a complementary pint of beer from the bar. We hoped for an attendance of about 30 men. Following the patient participation group's press releases local, and to our surprise national, press ran with the story. They achieved coverage in four national papers (not that this was of benefit to our patients) as well as local papers, radio interviews and magazines. We actually exceeded the target and 80 men turned up on the night. Perhaps the widespread coverage also encouraged men who couldn't attend to look at their own lifestyle and health.
I am keen to encourage more of these events. Subjects already covered in events held by the practice participation groups have included:
• women's health
• bowel problems
• mental health.
Events already timetabled for the future include:
• a ‘Know your Numbers' night on blood pressure measurement, aimed at commuters as they come off the train at the local station
• another women's health event, due to popular demand
• a ‘Healthy Heart' event sponsored by a local charity and involving consultant cardiologist, dietician, pharmacist and practice nurse.
The venues will be appropriate for the target patients, and we haven't ruled out using the pub again.
The evening in the pub with the men's health MOT was simply an exercise to make men aware of their health. We did not ask for their names as confidentiality is paramount. However, it would have been interesting to follow the cohort of 80 men who attended after a period of a few months and ask them as to see if they had made any changes to their lifestyle.
There were questions as to whether it was ‘correct' to hold such an event in a pub. I have no doubt that it was. We have to acknowledge current lifestyles and we are not going to be able to influence people by being aloof and standoffish. I suppose you could call this a ‘hearts and minds' campaign.
Once men are aware of their health, aware that there are friendly, helpful practice nurses to be consulted, aware their GP is a human being just like them, aware their GP takes their concerns seriously, and aware they can talk to their GP with total confidentially, perhaps they will consult us a little sooner and we can reduce premature morbidity and death. In any case, we all had great fun organising and participating in the event.
Dr Martin Toynbee is a GP in Sussexminds
You could call this a hearts and minds campaignDr Toynbee: pub setting helped persuade male patients to attend a health promotion evening Dr Toynbee: pub setting helped persuade male patients to attend a health promotion evening