Self-management support

Self-management support is the help given to people with long term conditions to enable them to manage their health on a day-to-day basis.

All people with long term conditions make decisions, take actions and manage a broad range of factors that contribute to their health on a day-to-day basis.  It is therefore common sense – supported by health policy and evidence of positive outcomes – that health professionals and teams should support people to manage their health as effectively as possible. 

Self-management support means moving away from patients as passive recipients of care to a collaborative relationship where patients are active partners in their own health.  To do this, patients need to develop their knowledge, skills and confidence to make informed decisions and adapt their health-related behaviours.  They need to be supported by health professionals with the skills, expertise and confidence to support them in making informed decisions, achieving their goals and overcoming barriers.  And they need services that are organised in ways that provide appropriate support before, during, and after their appointment.

How this might work from the perspective of a GP practice (or other service)

Training for patients

People with long term conditions registered at the practice are invited to attend a Patient Skills Programme for patients.  This is a series of six workshops designed to help people to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to manage their own condition.  During the course of the workshops, participants identify that many of them feel it would helpful if the practice sent people some sort of reminder to help them plan in advance of their appointment what they want to talk about with their GP.

Improving systems and processes

Staff at the practice, both clinical and administrative, work together to identify and implement small changes to their systems and processes that will support self-management. They receive feedback from participants on the Patient Skills Programme that it would be helpful if the practice sent out a reminder to people ahead of their appointment to help them plan what they want to talk about.  The team work with a group of interested patients to co-design a leaflet with some key questions to help people think through what they want to talk about.  The new leaflets are routinely mailed out with appointment letters for people with long term conditions.  When a person arrives for their appointment, the reception staff check they received the leaflet, giving them a new one if they didn't and offering them supporting in working through the questions if they need it.

Practitioner development

The clinical team at the practice take part in a practitioner development programme, based at their practice.  The programme includes workshops, an action learning set and some 1-2-1 support.  The clinical team learn new skills and techniques and feel more confident supporting patients to self-manage.  They also talk about how to incorporate the new leaflet into their consultations.  This means that when patients have their appointment, their healthcare professional has the skills to take a pro-active approach to supporting them to self-manage, and is supported to do this by some of the new processes the practice has put in place.

See all our resources on About self-management support


This will be very useful for people who have no idea about self management. however as someone who has knowledge and experience in person centred health and care, I find the information to be giving a specific and perhaps limited perspective. It appears to be talking about self management support as a technique as opposed to an approach. Self management as a concept is practiced by many patients without support form health staff and not everyone needs "support" to self manage. Personally I would put the staff training needs first as until we have more staff who are able to practice with person centredness at the core, we will not be able to change patients experience or outcomes. I think it is useful to view self management as a spectrum and would be happy to share my thoughts further if anyone wishes to make contact.
by Ruth Slessor
Thank you for your feedback. We are keen that the site helps both those who are just starting out with self-management support and organisations and health professionals who are further on the journey, so sometimes we are trying to find the balance between capturing the complexity and providing something that can be easily understood by a ‘newcomer’. Like you, the Health Foundation feels very much that self-management support is not a ‘stand-alone activity’, but part of the wider philosophy of person-centred care. This is set out in our section ‘About us'. It is good to hear that, like us, you see staff training and development as a key part of achieving more person-centred care. Our Co-Creating Health programme found that many health professionals feel they are already supporting their patients to self-manage, so there is work to be done in increasing understanding of what self-management support is, as well as supporting clinicians to develop skills and techniques they can use in their practice.
by Angela Cummings, The Health Foundation