WEARSIDE MATTERS: Organisations get together to help people help themselves

One of the sessions organised by Sunderland Carers' Centre on behalf of All Together Better.
One of the sessions organised by Sunderland Carers' Centre on behalf of All Together Better.
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A health and social care programme will help Sunderland look after itself more effectively by bringing together a wide range of organisations to co-ordinate self-care in the city.

All Together Better Sunderland, an NHS ‘vanguard’ that is developing new ways of working by joining up health and social care for those who need it most, has been selected to receive intensive support to accelerate the involvement of people and communities in the management of their own health and wellbeing.

The project will see All Together Better co-ordinate city-wide initiatives that educate people about how they can better look after themselves, and the people they look after, to help prevent conditions from developing as a result of lifestyle decisions like poor diet and exercise.

It will also see extended support for those who may have a condition, for example diabetes or a heart condition, but need some help in managing it better.

In addition the project will also focus on carers, providing better support and information for those people and families who are looking after others who would benefit from more practical assistance and support.

All Together Better was chosen to run with self-care because it is designed to concentrate efforts on the people who need the most help and support in the city – usually those with complex conditions and the frail and elderly.

Jennifer Wilkie, project manager for the self-care project, said: “Self-care isn’t a new thing. We are conscious that a range of organisations across the city, including all the partners working with us as part of the vanguard already have effective initiatives and campaigns promoting self-care and self-management, but our aim is to bring them all together around the table to discuss, share and develop a city-wide self-care programme that will ultimately benefit the whole population.

“We are not just looking at people who are already managing their own or a family member’s health, but want to look at the whole community working with a range of organisations and groups to reinforce the benefits and an understanding of self-care.”

Through the national empowering people and communities initiative, announced last month at the National Voices Annual Conference, All Together Better Sunderland will receive extra assistance to help progress the work across the city.

Samantha Jones, director of New Care Models Programme, said: “Building healthy communities and supporting self-care are central to work of the new care models programme. We are excited to be working more closely with All Together Better and watching them develop and build on their existing work that is putting people much more in control of their own health.

“As well as supporting them with their activities, the new care models programme will be helping them share their work more widely across the country to benefit more people and other health and care systems.”

The benefits of self-care and self-management include:

l Understanding of the impact of your behaviour of your health and wellbeing

l Prevention of disease and illness

l Increased sense of wellbeing

Increased productivity, sense of engagement, and connectedness

l Healthy, balanced diet and therefore better maintenance of weight

l Improved longevity and quality of life

l A better understanding of your condition, or that of the person you care for

l Understanding how to manage medication and treatment plans

l Exploring what aids or equipment that might help – including new technology.

Jennifer added: “While there is some amazing work being done across the city we know there are both gaps and duplication of effort so, by working together and joining up with other charities and organisation, we know we can provide a much more effective and efficient support network for everyone in Sunderland.”

To find out more visit www.atbsunderland.gov.uk


Long term carers, who devote much of their lives to look after a loved one, are being given a helping hand thanks to a care programme to support Sunderland’s most vulnerable.

More than a dozen carers, who support some of the frailest people in the city, already have a listening ear, as part of a six-week programme of sessions to help tackle some of the challenges carers face day-to-day.

Organised by Sunderland Carers’ Centre on behalf of All Together Better - an NHS England funded care model that is bringing together health and social care teams, alongside local support organisations to provide joined-up care to those who need it most - the sessions aim to share important information with carers to help them with their caring role.

The free sessions are designed specifically for people who look after someone with particularly challenging conditions such as diabetes; heart disease or chronic breathing difficulties like COPD.

Led by a carer support worker and specialist nurses, carers spend six weeks getting clinical advice on how to spot early warning signs associated with their loved ones condition before they develop into something more serious, as well as getting advice as carers around benefits entitlements and support available directly to them.

Each sessions is two hours long, run at venues across the city and are open to anyone who cares for someone with a complex condition.

They will be delivered during the day, evening or even on weekends to make sure they fit into the busy lives of the carers who attend and not only provide invaluable advice and information but also a respite opportunity, where they can meet other people in the same position.

Val Armstrong from Sunderland Carers’ Centre who is running the sessions, said: “Carers play such a critical role in society, and they are so important to the wellbeing of people who are perhaps isolated or face social challenges due to ongoing health issues.

“However, often carers can become as isolated as the person they are caring for, closing themselves off from their own social circles, in order to dedicate themselves to the wellbeing of their loved one.

“These sessions provide an outlet for people who may otherwise not have a support network around them, giving them a chance to share their experiences and meet other people who are living with the same pressures.

And more practically, the sessions are about equipping carers with information that will help them in their caring role and the confidence to make decisions around the care they provide.”

To find out more, visit www.atbsunderland.org.uk
Val added: “The practical side of these sessions is really important, as carers are often looking after people, without any clinical knowledge or training.

“We don’t expect carers to become nurses or doctors, but what we do hope is that by equipping them with further knowledge, they can be more confident about the care they are providing, and can perhaps spot early warning signs if their loved one becomes unwell due to illness or injury.”

One carer in the city who is tapping into the course is John Corr, 83, who comes from Washington, and has been caring for his wife for more than nine years.

John is dedicated to his wife, who he has taken care of for more than nine years, but at times his own health needs can make it difficult for him to support his wife physically when she requires help mobilising.

He said: “I’m a happy-go-lucky person and I have always tried to remain active and on-the-go.

“I’m really enjoying meeting new people, just to have some time to catch up once a week and to hear about things that might help me and my wife. The other people here understand more than most just how hard it can be to be a carer, so it’s great to come along.”

The sessions are part of All Together Better, which brings together health, social care and community or voluntary services, like Sunderland Carers’ Centre, to provide holistic community-based care to people in Sunderland, especially those who need the most help and support to manage their long-term conditions and/or frailty.

It recognised that carers provide an invaluable, often unseen resource that helps prop up health and social care services, so it is vital they get the best support possible so they are equipped to carry out their caring role.