Designing people-centred health support in Sheffield

Written by Dr Ollie Hart

At Sloan Medical Centre we've always valued the place of digital resources and tools in our practice. So much so that we've had a co-located digital clinic in our practice once a week for the last 4 years.

When the chance to take part in the NHS WDP Digital Pathfinder project came along, we knew it would be a great opportunity for us to link up with the Good Things Foundation to do some baseline co-production work. This work has subsequently helped us organise our thoughts and make a clear project plan, working with our patient and community groups to take things to the next level.

This next level plan means we're now working as a group of practices (a neighbourhood covering 36,000 patients) to develop a consistent, person-centred approach to long term condition management.

To help us tailor our offer of support to people (including the digital offer), we systematically collect health data at the patient's annual review. We collect the usual medical measures relevant to their conditions, but also use the Patient Activation Measure to define the individual's perceived skill, knowledge and confidence to self manage.

We're very aware that some people are more confident than others at self management, so we make sure we offer different options. This can be simply signposting, offering access to our Wifi at the practice, or one to one support and coaching. We also recognise that sometimes this is best delivered by health staff, and other times by health trainers or peer supporters when a less medicalised approach may be more important at that time. This "menu" of different options means that patients are offered the kind of support that is right for them and makes a real difference to how they go on to self manage their health.

What else is important to the successful development of our project?

  • The Realising the Value report from Nesta highlighted how important taking a wider community focused approach, and using techniques like health coaching can be. So our plans also draw in these approaches in how we offer both digital and non digital support.
  • Most recently we have realised the value ourselves of a dedicated project manager to help us drive the process. Our project manager has helped to focus us on manageable steps. Following a Quality Improvement approach we will capture measures of change and assess our progress in a Plan-Do-Study-Act approach.
  • To me the most important aspect of this project is ensuring that the digital training and support becomes part of business as usual. There is far less value in a tag-on pilot that stops as soon as funding dries up.

Co-production is absolutely vital in the development of support offer like this. It might make progress a little slower to ensure that the process is designed and accepted by all involved, but it leads to a much more sustainable approach in the future... and a better outcome for our patients.


You can read more about the NHS Widening Digital Participation project or contact @olliehart7 to find out more about Sloan Surgery’s support offer.