In 2017, NHS Lanarkshire and Thistle Foundation began working together to provide group-based self-management support for people living with long term health conditions.
Thistle delivered four Lifestyle Management Courses whilst coaching NHS Lanarkshire staff to become facilitators, with both NHS staff and people living with long term conditions participating in the first course.
One of those participants was Kay.
“When I first heard about the Lifestyle Management course I remember thinking that it just wasn’t for me. It’s my worst nightmare, being in a room of people I didn't know and speaking out. I forgot about it until my husband found the leaflet and encouraged me to reconsider. Looking at the different topics - pacing, anxiety, sleep - I knew that I would find the course helpful. But I still wasn’t sure.
I went along to the introductory session to find out more. When they told me I didn’t need to stand up and say, 'My name is Kay...' and talk about myself, that gave me a wee push and some confidence to go along, so I did!
It was April 2017 and the first Lifestyle Management course run with NHS Lanarkshire. Ross, Linsay and Leanne from Thistle were training the staff to deliver Lifestyle Management courses.
Certain things really stuck with me from the course - belly breathing and mindfulness made a real difference to me. Suddenly I could stop all the thoughts that were racing in my head. Another really important thing was realising that I wasn’t on my own. There were people on the course who, although they had different long term conditions, were facing the same challenges as me. That made a big difference.”
The second course started in October, with some NHS staff beginning to deliver elements of the course and some previous participants – including Kay – joining as peer volunteers.
“As the next course was approaching, Maureen and Andrea from the NHS team asked if I might like to help out on the course. They said, “all you have to do is make tea and be nice to people” and I thought, ‘well, I can do that!’ I’ve volunteered on all five courses since.
Over time, I’ve taken on more of a facilitative role. There are times I’m out of my comfort zone but I give it a go and I really enjoy it. I love meeting new people and seeing the difference the course makes. People are usually happier and a bit more confident by the end.
Volunteering on the course has made such a difference to me. I am much more confident. I think differently, am happier and more relaxed. Today, I am giving back and helping others. Talking about my own experience gives people hope. I think back to my first course when I wouldn’t talk in front of the group and now here I am helping facilitate!
When I found out I had won NHS Lanarkshire Outstanding Volunteer Award this year I was blown away, I didn’t expect it! I really was in shock. It was so lovely to be recognised.
Because of the pandemic, we’ve not been able to do a course since the beginning of the year, but the online LSM Peer Support Group that Maureen and Andrea established at the beginning of lockdown has allowed me to keep in touch with previous participants to make sure they are doing okay. And I can’t wait to get back to the courses again.”