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Patient training programmes

Training patients with long term conditions to manage their disease could have major benefits for both the sufferer and the NHS, according to the BMA

The BMA lends its support to scheme that helps patients better manage long term illnesses

Training patients with long term conditions to manage their disease could have major benefits for both the sufferer and the NHS, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).

The BMA's Patient Liaison Group has expressed its support for Expert Patient Programmes (EPP) in a discussion paper, but says that more thought needs to go into the way the programmes work in practice.

Under the EPPs, people with long term conditions go on a six-week course, led by a trained lay tutor who has suffered from a chronic illness, which helps them to develop the skills needed to manage their condition and cope with common issues such as pain, tiredness and stress.

The programmes enable patients to get more involved in their healthcare and minimise visits to GPs and hospitals, according to the paper. A survey of patients who took part in EPPs revealed that 30 per cent experienced a reduction in depression and 17 per cent said the number of days the took off work had decreased, while visits to GPs fell by 9 per cent and attendance at accident and emergency departments dropped by 6 per cent.

Around 21,000 people with chronic diseases have attended EPP courses in England, and programmes will be rolled out across the whole country and Wales by 2008.

Judy Wilson, a member of the Patient Liaison Group, said: This programme fits in with the desire of many people living with long term conditions to manage their conditions and their lives, in partnership with health professionals.

However, if the EPP is to deliver results over the next few years, we need to make sure that courses are accessible to a wider range of people.

2nd September 2008

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