This blog is written by Kay Ellermeyer, Business Manager at Alvanley Family Practice, Woodley
There were lots of reasons for us starting a practice based walking scheme, but one of the drivers was David. What mattered to him was that he wanted to reach the top of a hill he used to sit on as a young man, and knew with his poor health and severe COPD he was unlikely to manage it again. He had asked his wife to scatter his ashes at the top so that he could see the view of the aeroplanes coming into Manchester Airport again.
David had told us this and we felt determined to help him become more mobile. His biggest problem was fear. Fear of becoming breathless and the fear of failure. Our promise to him was that we wouldn’t make him do anything that made him feel uncomfortable and we would only walk at him pace. The first week that David joined us there were 5 other female patients with us, we could see David was all ready for the charm offensive, and had quickly made friends with all the other walkers. So much so that we were nearly half way round before he even realised he was exercising.
There is a hill on the walk, and in the first week David stopped half way up, but he did get to the top. After that he managed it every week, a low wall at the top served for a good resting point and an occasional joke.
What mattered to David now was that he had made new friends, he was part of a team, and he was enjoying Wednesdays. He had a focus and some social activity that was supported and safe.
We didn’t know but he was planning to head to his childhood stomping ground to have a look at the hill that he dreamt of climbing once again. He and his wife decided to take a stroll up it. Speed wasn’t important but he wanted to see how far he could get with his new found confidence. He got half way! On deciding to stop he looked up and looked down and decided to keep going. He made it to the top and he watched the aeroplanes circling ready to land at the airport.
The following Wednesday David came early to the walk and spoke to us about his achievements. With tears in his eyes he told us that he had managed to achieve the thing that mattered most to him; to regain some of his confidence, to exercise and to reach the top. He smiled like he’d won the lottery and I guess he had!
David and his wife Julie now offer support to other patient in the practice and are great advocates for our practice ethos of doing things differently. We have engaged with Altogether Better and now have 30 patients out of our population of just under 5000 that want to help us to develop solutions to the things that matter to our patients and the community.
They have helped us develop a Wellness Prescription that the clinical team can use to signpost patients to different types of Social Prescribing. With this we are striving to address those 30% of patients that make appointments to see their GP for non-medical matters. Our Wellness Prescription now offers support with health eating, money matters, loneliness, singing and growing, cooking and eating together; all things that matter to our patients and our Practice Team.
What matters to us is that our patients are well looked after by each other and by us, they have alternative routes to health and wellbeing which are supported within the community reducing the pressure and reliance on the medical team. It’s a long journey but we are starting to get there!