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Keywords:

  • long-term condition;
  • primary care;
  • self-care;
  • self-management;
  • workforce

Abstract

Changes in the National Health Service (NHS) workforce and user involvement have been key areas of contemporary health care policy. Potentially, the current separation of the agendas for patient participation and reconfiguration of the workforce are being brought closer together in the NHS through the Expert Patients Programme (EPP), and its potential to create a new community health ‘workforce’ of self-management and self-care skills trainers and tutors. The aim of the present paper is to assess the establishment and prospects of these trainers as a new workforce role in the EPP and the NHS. This is done through policy analysis and process evaluation recording the development and implementation of the EPP in the NHS. Telephone interviews with individual trainers were undertaken in order to identify the way in which they are being introduced into the NHS. A representative sample of 19 trainers from the 26 teams covering all the primary care trusts (PCTs) in England were interviewed. The EPP trainers are employed and appointed by the Department of Health and assist PCTs to run EPP courses. The analysis of trainer perspectives illuminated some of the tensions inherent in this new role, which emerge from the consequences of having a long-term condition, their relationship to other occupations operating within primary care and their structural position within the NHS. Prospects for the future development of self-management trainers remain uncertain. Two likely outcomes are examined. The first is that trainers and volunteer tutors will become increasingly integrated as a semi-professionalised group within the primary care workforce. The other option is for trainers to become freelance consultants commissioned by PCTs to run local self-management, self-care support or EPP programmes with the consequence of establishing a more distant relationship with mainstream NHS provision.