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A qualitative exploration of a health trainer programme in two UK Primary Care Trusts

By Linda Ball and Nasrin Nasr


Aims: World Health Organization data illustrate a worldwide re-emergence of interest in the scope of lay health workers for extending services to ‘hard-to-reach’ community groups. In the UK, the health trainer model of service delivery represents one such innovative way of working, first described in the White Paper Choosing Health: Making Healthier Choices Easier and more recently in the Kings Fund report. The scheme was introduced into selected primary care settings in England from 2005 and rolled out nationally from 2007. The aim of this study was to examine the perceived value of the health trainer scheme. Methods: This paper describes qualitative data from two studies undertaken in 2007–2009, comprising in-depth consultations with key primary care stakeholders, health trainers and their clients in two primary care trusts in northern and central England. Data was collected via 12 semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders and service users and from 8 focus groups with a total of 33 trainee and qualified health trainers. Results: The UK health trainer approach was regarded as effective in contributing to the support of a broad spectrum of health and welfare issues across widely diverse communities in the two primary care trusts evaluated. Study data also indicated a wide-ranging impact of the health trainer service, extending not only to the lay health workers themselves, but also to their families, friends and colleagues. Conclusions: The health trainer service appears to be not only ‘fit for purpose’, but also to bring with it certain ‘added value’, which was not predicted by the two primary care service providers at the outset. A critical factor in this success appears to be the unique combination of time, the ‘person next door’ and a ‘one-to-one’ approach, which facilitated an innovative and highly productive connection between the health trainer and client. However, participants in this evaluation perceived that the current format and constituents of service performance data were significantly failing to credit the health trainer scheme with the full extent of this impact

Publisher: Sage
Year: 2011
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