A new self-management programme to help stroke survivors back on the road to greater independence is starting to be rolled out across the UK.
The Stepping Out programme puts patients in the driving seat when it comes to drawing up a rehabilitation plan, allowing them to take charge of their progress as they adapt to living with a long-term condition.
It consists of three main components – workshops providing in-depth training for health professionals, one-to-one sessions at which individual patients learn how to develop their self-management skills and a workbook enabling stroke survivors to set personal targets, chart their achievements and draw inspiration from reading about the experiences of others who have confronted similar health challenges.
The initiative is the brainchild of Dr Fiona Jones, who is based within the Faculty of Health and Social Care Sciences, run in partnership by Kingston University and St George's, University of London.
"Generally, there has tended to be less of an emphasis on the psychological well-being of patients and their longer-term needs. That has led to stroke survivors often reporting feeling abandoned and ill-prepared for coping with everyday life once they are discharged from regular therapy," Dr Jones said.
"Our goal is to help people living with this condition find a way to not only manage the physical challenges they may face but to also set personal targets to build confidence and make continued progress in the longer term.
Depending on individual circumstances, patients can get involved in Stepping Out just two weeks after suffering a stroke and there is no limit to how long they can be part of the programme.
Dr Jones said: "Stroke is a complex and traumatic event that affects each patient to a different degree and a one-size recovery plan does not fit all. One of the key elements in the recovery of stroke survivors lies in involving them in their own rehabilitation," she said.
"Stepping Out is not just about helping people reach physical milestones – it's about helping them regain a feeling of control over their lives. Doing the things so many of us take for granted, such as meeting friends more regularly, taking up a hobby or reading a newspaper can give them a tremendous sense of accomplishment."
The programme links in with the Department of Health's National Stroke Strategy, which aims to ensure patients and their carers are more fully involved in making decisions about treatment and in designing support services. The strategy specifies that more needs to be done to support survivors developing self-management skills to reduce ongoing care costs.
Dr Jones came up with the Stepping Out concept in 2005, which was piloted with patients and health professionals – in Inverness, London and Christchurch, in Dorset – who attended introductory training sessions and provided feedback on the first drafts of the stroke workbooks.