Kriss Owen is a GP at Littlewick Medical Centre. She’s passionate about jogging as a way of enabling her patients to manage their own health.
How exercise helps with diabetes
“I’m the GP lead for diabetes both at Littlewick and across Erewash so I know how effective exercise is for managing diabetes and particularly in self-care. Watching what you eat and keeping active are two of the main things you can do to help yourself.
“Jogging helps people lose weight, get their fitness back and lifts their mood as depression is common in people with diabetes. It also gives them the opportunity to link up with other people with the same condition.
“We thought if people had support and there were medical staff in the group, they would see we were doing it and come with us.
Although a lot of patients were quite surprised when it was suggested to them, they’ve taken the leap to come and really improved week on week.
“The turnout has been amazing. We had 70 people turn up on the first night and it’s had one of the highest retention rates of any couch to 5k course.
“One gentleman in his 70s thanked us for inviting him, otherwise he’d never have had the confidence if the medical staff weren’t there. Another lady told us how she’d always wanted to do it but never dared do it on her own. People were even gaining the confidence to go out in between the weekly group session.”
Building on good relationship with patients – Claire Hughes, Practice Nurse
“Practice nurses have a relationship with patients. I’ve been seeing them for 11 years here and really know them well. If they see that we are going to be there they will go. Some need to know they will see a friendly familiar face.
“The initiative is having an impact as a number of patients have decreased their medication or been able to stop it. If just one person can reduce or stop their medication then it has been worth it.”
It is not just patients with diabetes who are benefiting, but those struggling with their mental health and even those with breathing difficulties.
“We are encouraging people on the programme to network on social media. If they can link up with someone near them then meet up, run together and form friendships there’s a better chance of it becoming a habit.
“We had a man with severe COPD. He started halfway through the programme and walked it and jogged it.
“He didn’t do the final run, but it was about him building confidence. He didn’t come out of the house because he was frightened of dying because he couldn’t breathe so I walked with him for several weeks. We just walked at the back as for him it was about getting out.
“It is about taking little steps. A building block to something else.”
Claire says it is important such initiatives continue and there is consistency, so that as awareness increases, more people can take part.
“Connecting with the Jog Derbyshire network is vital. What Ilkeston Joggers have is credibility, quality assurance and confidence as well as the ability to help joggers progress from beginners to an advanced group and maintain their activity levels”
Sharing Ideas across GP Practices
Dr Tarun Narula from Chesterfield was the diabetes lead for North Derbyshire Commissioners until the summer when he became cardiovascular lead. He was looking at ways to help people get fitter and how to incentivise the population.
“For me that was the starting point with my process – although I didn’t know how to do it until I spoke with Dr Kriss Owen the diabetes lead in Erewash.
“She mentioned to me about what they have done, and that gave me the idea. That’s how this story started, and I contacted Matt from Jog Derbyshire.
“Within my practice the diabetes nurse has the skill and enthusiasm for fitness. She runs the Park Run and was quite keen to work with me to take this project forward.
Focus on patients with chronic diseases and diabetes
“We have 20 plus people from Inspire Health currently undergoing couch to 5k. My main intention was to focus on patients with chronic diseases, and mostly diabetes.
“For those patients who come for check-ups with nurses on a regular basis, perhaps a diabetic check every six months or those patients trying to lose weight or come to practice nurses for weight checks on a monthly basis…. I think it brings a benefit to the whole system not just the patient.
“Starting with the patient there is enough evidence even with conditions, specifically diabetes and cardiovascular that if you lose weight you have less chance getting these chronic conditions or if you do, it can have less impact on health services in terms of doctors appointments, prescription costs to the NHS and fewer hospital admissions.
“It has benefits all round and for the patients there is confidence and encouragement and the happiness that comes with that.
Dr Narula says while it is hard to quantify the financial savings made if a patient needs less GP appointments it is estimated first appointments at hospitals are £200 depending on the speciality and the follow up £100.
If you are interested in how the Jog Derbyshire network of qualified leaders and friendly jogging groups could support your GP Practice, please get in touch.