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Helping patients to take control of long-term illnesses

2 April 2007

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According to the Department of Health (DH) today (Monday 2 April 2007), more people across the country with long-term illnesses will soon be able to be supported to have greater control over their conditions, increasing their confidence and improving their quality of life.

The DH has established the Expert Patients Programme as a Community Interest Company (EPP CIC) – the first time a government department has set up a social enterprise organisation.

Primary care trusts (PCTs) will be able to commission the EPP CIC to run self-management courses for patients to help them better manage their conditions – and even to train volunteers to run courses in their area.

The new EPP CIC will mean that patients have greater access to courses on how best to manage their illness, which can mean that they avoid unnecessary hospital trips. Early findings suggest that through better self-management, A&E attendances have been reduced by more than 15% for people who have attended an EPP course.

Health Minister Rosie Winterton said: “This is an excellent opportunity for PCTs to help patients in their local area to better manage long-term conditions. By commissioning these courses, they are investing in self-care and empowering patients, increasing social capital and improving community health. Knowing how best to manage a long-term condition reduces the need for expensive emergency care – this is better for patients and for the local NHS.”

Harry Cayton, National Director for Patients and the Public, said: “Self-management is an integral element of care for people with long-term health conditions. The EPP CIC is an exciting opportunity for self-management programmes to be provided more widely across health and social care.”

Stephen Jacobs OBE, Chair of the EPP CIC said: “The EPP CIC will be able to make a difference to the lives of the large number of people living with long-term health conditions. We particularly hope to aim a number of our services towards those in some of the most socially excluded communities – for example, we now have a series of courses for minority ethnic groups translated into nine languages, as well as courses for those who care for others who have a long-term health condition. It is particularly important to work with other health professionals to understand the value of our courses for their patients – a task which the EPP CIC will also undertake.”

The EPP CIC went live yesterday (1 April 2007), with the aim of increasing the number of course places every year from 12,000 to 100,000 by 2012.