“If you want to feel more self-confident, understand your condition and learn techniques to have a better quality of life on a daily basis this is for you.”

These are the words of Debra Moore who is encouraging people across Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr to take part in Education Programmes for Patients (EPP).

Time 4 Me at Cwm Taf EPP offers three courses aimed at helping people with long term conditions manage their health and wellbeing; deal with chronic pain and live with, and manage, diabetes.

The courses have been developed by healthcare professionals and patients, and consist of two and a half hour sessions once a week for six weeks in community locations.

The sessions are led by trained people who have experience with a long term condition themselves or are affected by someone who lives with a condition.

The aim of the course is build participants’ confidence in their ability to manage their health and maintain active and fulfilling lives.

EPP Cymru Co-ordinator Debra, who has been running courses for six years, said, “Often when people begin the course they can’t see how it’s going to help them, but as time progresses they begin to understand that they are not alone and that with help and support things can become much better.

“It’s often about changing a mind-set and showing that even a small change can bring benefits whether that’s starting gentle exercise, or finding ways to manage pain.

“This in turn often leads to reduced GP visits as people feel stronger and also understand that there are other avenues of help available in the community such as their local pharmacist.”

The EPP courses are a great example of the services available in the community which are being highlighted as part of Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board’s #YourLocalTeam campaign.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the range of healthcare professionals who can help patients without the need to go to the GP.

Each EPP course can take up to 16 people and many who attend have either self-referred, or been advised to attend by their GP or local JobCentre.

It is open to people with a range of long term conditions including for example depression, Chrohns disease, migraines, MS, epilepsy, chronic pain and asthma as well as carers.

The diabetes course is new this year and is currently running in the Royal Glamorgan Hospital and Green Street Church in Aberdare.

This is aimed at patients with Type 2 diabetes, an increasing problem in the area. It looks closely at what causes diabetes, how to manage its effects, preventing low blood sugar and complications, exercise and weight management.

The courses in general focus on a number of aspects specific to conditions as well as the following;

  • tools and technique to deal with problems such as fatigue, pain, isolation, frustration, depression and anxiety
  • exercise advice to stay healthy and strong
  • support to make decisions and manage treatment, medication and therapies
  • ways to improve breathing
  • information about healthy eating and weight management
  • support with setting goals, action plans and planning for the future

Janice Davies was referred to the Health and Wellbeing EPP course from her local JobCentre who recognised that she needed help with her anxiety and support to better manage her long term asthma.

She had been out of work for 10 years as she had three small children and her husband worked abroad so she couldn’t manage childcare costs. She felt isolated, low and was struggling to manage her asthma medication so was constantly feeling poorly.

Janice, 51, from Treorchy, said, “I wasn’t sure about going on the course but I can honestly say that it changed my life.

“When you are feeling isolated and low, shut away behind your front door, you don’t know how things are out there and how things can be. It really opened my eyes and learning how to make changes made such a difference to how I felt mentally and physically.

“As my anxiety lowered I realised that using my asthma pumps regularly was a big help and I no longer needed to visit the GP because I was unwell with a chest infection.”

Janice’s confidence grew so much that when the course ended she decided that she wanted to volunteer to run a course herself and delivered two. She then gained some work experience with the EPP Cymru team at the health board and when a job opportunity came along she applied and was successful.

Janice, who is now Admin Support for EPP Cymru said, “I can’t believe how different things are now. I love working here and would encourage anyone who feels they need help to give it a go! There is nothing to lose and lots to gain.”

Around 16 EPP courses are delivered in the community each year.

To find out more about EPP look out for leaflets in your GP surgery, local JobCentre or visit www.eppwales.org

Primary Care and Community Services #YourLocalTeam

Helping people with long term conditions live active and fulfilling lives