How Health and Wellbeing Coaches are transforming patients’ lives

Research published today (26 September 2022) by King’s Business School, King’s College London, shows how Health and Wellbeing Coaches (HWbCs) are inspiring lifestyle changes in patients and having a positive impact in general practice in north east London.

The report looks at the role of HWbCs and their effectiveness in addressing health inequalities and better outcomes for patients.

The report was jointly commissioned by the North East London Health and Care Partnership and The Shoreditch Trust to evaluate the impact that HWbCs are having on the lives of patients. Richard Griffin, Professor of Healthcare Management at King’s Business School interviewed and surveyed HWbCs and the healthcare practitioners they work with, including GPs and Clinical Directors.

The role of HWbCs is to improve outcomes for people experiencing issues such as diabetes, weight management, poor mental health, pain management and social isolation. By offering longer one-to-one support, the coaches empower patients to actively participate in, make decisions and manage their own health and wellbeing. The approach is one of the ways in which personalised care gives people choice and control over the way their care is planned, delivered and provided.

Although health coaching is an established intervention, the HWbC role is new in the NHS. The report found widespread support for this person-centred approach amongst GPs and other healthcare professionals in primary care, highlighting the positive difference the coaches are making by:

  • Providing more client personal care with longer one-to-one sessions to help them take responsibility for their own health
  • Driving behaviour change by helping clients reflect on their health and choices, such as nutrition, exercise, and smoking
  • Helping to reduce GP workloads
  • Providing a space for patients to be heard and supported
  • Increasing access to wellbeing and support services

Just over half of the patients supported by HWbCs had more than one issue. Nearly one in ten patients had five issues. The report shows that coaches felt that their work is driving behaviour change in patients, helping them to make health and well-being related decisions through goal setting, onward referrals, and signposting to support and advice.

Dr Ben Molyneux, NEL Personalised Care Clinical Lead, welcomed the research. “This has been an invaluable insight into the work of health and wellbeing coaches and the way in which they really are making a difference to patients and in healthcare practices. It is particularly timely given the cost-of-living crisis and the inevitable additional strain that will place on individuals and primary care as we enter the winter months.

“Many of those living in north east London have various health challenges and so HWbCs are helping to improve their life chances by empowering them with personalised care to self-manage their own health. We’re already seeing the benefits in patients making distinct changes. It is also heartening to hear from the practices about the coaches are easing everyday pressures of ensuring patients’ needs are met.”

Professor Richard Griffin of King’s Business School who led the research said. “It is clear that HWbCs are making a difference to people’s lives and meeting a real need that was not previously being addressed. The evaluation shows the importance of personalised care and the impact it can have not only on patients but also other healthcare staff such as GPs. This is particularly significant given the pressures that the NHS is facing.”

Gita Malhotra North East London Workforce Lead for Personalised Care said. “We are absolutely committed to their continued development and retention in support of our local populations. We have established a professional network for all our HWbCs in NEL. They are benefitting from peer support from each other as well as ensuring all our HWbCs have access to professional accredited supervision”.

Find out more about health and wellbeing coaching in north east London.