The practitioner role in supporting people to self-manage

Health professionals, health coaches and others who support people with long term conditions need the knowledge and skills for technical tasks, but also the specific skills and approaches which have been shown to be effective in supporting and enabling people to self-manage.

To effectively manage their own long term condition(s), most people need to make difficult lifestyle and behaviour changes.  But research has shown that simply providing information is not enough to help people maintain motivation through these changes.  Health professionals, health coaches and others working with people with long term conditions can support people to achieve their goals and better manage their own health if they develop their practice so they are using specific self-management support skills and approaches.

Is self-management support really that different from what health professionals already do?

Research shows that more active support focused on confidence and behaviour works best to help people make difficult lifestyle and behaviour changes.  Our brief animated video ‘Behind closed doors’ shows the difference between a traditional consultation and a consultation where the health professional uses self-management support skills and approaches. 

What works in helping people to self-manage?

‘I know from managing my own long term conditions, that it can all feel pretty overwhelming,’ says Anya de Iongh, who is both a person with long term conditions and a self-management coach. ‘Using specific techniques like goal setting, problem solving and goal follow-up can break things down and make change achievable.’

How can we help health professionals to develop the skills and techniques that really enable people?

Whilst many health professionals feel they are already supporting their patients to self-manage, training in the specific evidence-based skills can help both health professionals and others who are supporting people with long term conditions to do it better.  ‘I have become aware of the power of participants working in pairs with their own material and working on areas of change that are important to them,’ says clinician and trainer in self-management support Petrea Fagan.  In her blog, Petrea explores some of the approaches that work best in helping health professionals learn and utilise evidence-based skills and techniques for supporting people to self-manage.

Top tips for training for workforces in self-management support

Training workforces in self-management support requires people to change their own behaviours and practice.  Through our Co-creating Health programme we learnt about some of the challenges to providing this training and how to make the training as effective as possible – such as training staff in teams or whole groups of staff from the same service.

Recommended resources 

For putting self-management skills and techniques into practice…

Tools for clinical practice features a range of tools that health professionals, health coaches and others can use in their practice to support people to self-manage.

For running workforce training…

The Health Foundation’s Practitioner Development Programme distils the evidence about what works into a clear set of practical skills and tools that clinicians, health coaches and others can learn and use to support people to self-manage.  This series of resources is designed to enable people to set up and run their own practitioner development programme.