Health and wellbeing coaches (HWbCs) have had a ‘positive impact’ in general practice in North East London, according to new research by King’s College London.
The report, called Making a difference – An evaluation of Health and Wellbeing Coaches in North East London, surveyed and interviewed 17 HWbCs along with 19 other stakeholders including GPs.
It found a ‘consensus’ that coaches, which are funded by the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS), did reduce the workload of GPs and other staff within the practices they worked in.
All of the HWbCs surveyed said the role was able to help people reflect on their wellbeing behaviours, while over half (53%) said they strongly agreed the role would help deliver long term changes to health-related behaviours, with an additional 29% saying they agreed with this.
Over 80% said they agreed that the role would reduce GP workload, while 70% said they thought it would reduce the workload of other practice staff.
However, the study, which ran from January to March 2022, highlighted that the coaching roles were still in the ‘emergence stage’ and that ‘old ways of working’ in primary care still dominated.
Respondents suggested that there needed to be a better understanding of the role by PCNs and practices.
A couple of GP respondents said that they did not know what to do with the coaches, with one saying it ‘doesn’t mean the need isn’t there once we find out how to use them’, while a quarter of HWbCs said they did not think the need for their role was understood.
The author of the research, Professor Richard Griffin, said in the study: ‘A clear conclusion of this evaluation is that the role has proved that it is needed and that it can be appropriately employed and deployed.’
He added: ‘When considering the impact of the role on health and wellbeing outcomes and capacity in primary care the question – “what would have happened if the coaches had not been there?” – can be asked. In fact, one participant asked this very question in an interview.
‘The evidence of this evaluation is that an absence of HWbCs would have had a detrimental effect on hundreds of North East London citizens, not only on their health and wellbeing, but more widely.’
It comes after digital transformation leads and GP assistants are to be added to the ARRS this month as part of plans to increase patient access.