Wellbeing team make big impact for Wanaka-area patients

Wednesday 16 June 2021

Wellbeing team make big impact for Wanaka-area patients

Small steps towards big change is how Friederike Andree and Carmen McCall sum up the support they provide to patients and whānau at Wānaka and Aspiring medical centres.

Working at both the co-located practices, Friederike – a Health Improvement Practitioner, and Carmen, a Health Coach, support patients with anxiety and stress as well as managing chronic health conditions. The practices’ doctors and nurses refer patients for the free and, where possible, same- day appointments, giving extra support alongside the usual health care services.

Whether talking with a busy working mum to find time for herself, or supporting patients newly diagnosed with a long-term condition, such as diabetes, ‘the Wellbeing team’, as they have come to be known, try to help patients to make manageable changes.

“We take a values-based approach, so we work with patients to identify what is most important to them and talk about what they can do to improve where they are,” says Friederike, noting the appointments are meant to be one-off sessions and aren’t counselling services.

“Sometimes it is learning mindfulness exercises. Sometimes finding things in a person’s life they can do without. Sometimes it is just listening. What is important is helping the patient to take steps forward.”

Health Coach Carmen has started a walking group to help patients to get outside, get active and connect with others.

“We try to help patients to find what will work for them,” says Carmen. “It is such a privilege to spend time with patients, to talk about what is important to them and help them to make change.”

The Wellbeing team can also help connect patients with other services, such a smoking cessation programmes, healthy eating groups, exercise programmes, dietician and counselling services.

The Health Coach and Health Improvement Practitioner roles are part of Access and Choice programme, led by WellSouth primary health network with partner agencies including Sport Otago, Sport Southland and Pact. The programme integrates mental health and wellbeing professionals in to general practices, and makes it faster and easier for patients to access support for mild to moderate mental health concerns and for advice in managing long-term conditions support.

Carmen and Friederike had an immediate benefit for patients and practices when the they joined Wanaka and Aspiring last spring, says Maureen McNeill, Wanaka Medical Centre nursing and quality leader.

“We don’t know what we did without them – they have helped so much to take the pressure off our GPs and nurses,” she says. “If a patient calls, nurses can offer them a free appointment with Friederike or Carmen. It helps the patient and it gives the nurses peace of mind knowing they have this resource available.”

Support for patients can extend outside the practice as well. Community support worker Emily Black can assist patients who might need an extra hand applying for work, accessing housing, seeking WINZ benefits or another community-based support services.

“The aim is to support independence and to help people build resilience in their life. I either meet patients in their home, or somewhere in the community and visit can be one-offs or number of visits over a three-month period,” she says.

Jodie Black, WellSouth Access and Choice Clinicical Services Manager, says Friederike and Carmen are among 19 Health Improvement Practitioners and 11 Health Coaches based at general practices, helping to make health and well-being support more accessible across the district. There are nine Community Health Workers that work with the practice-based teams in different parts of the to support patients.

“Having this support available at the place people most often access care – their regular GP clinic – reduces barriers to people accessing the care they need,” Jodie explains.

Providing support but always promoting self-management is fundamental to the work the team does says, says Paul Dawson, Adult Mental Health Service Manager– Southland, Pact Group, which employs Community Health worker Emily.

“Pact are thrilled to be involved with this innovative contract and have already seen evidence of significantly improved wellbeing outcomes for practice patients. Community support work is all about increasing motivation and resilience and supporting people to better understand and self-manage their own wellbeing in an environment that best works for them”.

Across all three roles at the two practices, there have been more than 1200 appointments since August 2020 when Friederike started in the Health Improvement Practitioner role, followed a couple of weeks later by Carmen before Emily joined in early in 2021.

“That is helping a lot of patients and taking pressure off other parts of the health system,” Jodie says. 

WellSouth Access and Choice

About WellSouth

WellSouth Primary Health Network is the primary health organization for Otago and Southland. We support general practice teams and coordinate and help in the delivery of primary health care on the lower South Island.

Our aim is to support people to look after themselves, promote healthy environments and help provide care, and access to care, where it’s needed.


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