Better conversations mean better health

Dr Penny Newman NHS Innovation Acceleration Fellow.

Since I was appointed as an NIA Fellow last year, I’ve been supported by the Academic Health Science Network to support those in health and care to have better conversations with their patients.

The Better Conversation (#betterconversation) campaign aims to transform relationships between clinicians and their patients by advocating a health coaching approach to support individuals manage their own health better.

As a GP, my patients would often return unable to change their weight, exercise, smoking and medication adherence. They thought I had all the answers and I wanted to optimise my patients’ care.penny-newman

In 2010, at a leadership coaching development programme, I realised how a health coaching approach could be used with colleagues and patients. It could help shift a ‘diagnose and fix’ mindset as ‘expert’ – and the ensuing conversation – to one that was more ‘shared and enabling’ and help us flex our ingrained biomedical model to a behaviour change conversation.

Fired with enthusiasm at this important revelation, together with coach and psychologist Andrew McDowell and supported by Health Education England (HEE), we piloted health coach training with practice nurses and rolled this out to 800 clinicians from all professionals across the East of England and then to over 3,000 clinicians and peer coaches across the country. In 2015 our programme was selected as an innovation worth scaling nationally by the NHS Innovation Accelerator Programme, a partnership between NHS England and the Academic Health Science Networks, including Yorkshire & Humber AHSN.

This partnership with the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN has provided me with fantastic moral support. The dissemination of innovation can be lonely and hard, especially for a busy practitioner like myself. The AHSN Network has not only helped me with funding opportunities for this work but has also helped with the project management of the launch events and support for local adopters and leaders to encourage embedding through a learning set

healthcoachingIn September, we launched a new set of ‘Better Conversation’ resources at two sell-out events in Cambridge and Liverpool to over 200 delegates. The events were to support access to expert opinion, networks and resources to enable local organisations meet requirements in their Sustainable and Transformation Plans (STP). These events were pulled together with help from HEE and three AHSNs – Yorkshire & Humber, Eastern and the Innovation Agency.

Learning materials from these events are now available, together with the latest evidence, patient stories, videos, infographics, a resource guide and an online community to support professionals in health and care to adopt health coaching to improve the quality of conversation with patients to improve health and wellbeing.

Health coaching is a truly person centred process; a partnership between clinicians and patients that raises patients’ awareness and responsibility through a process of discovery. Evidence shows this approach, based on the science of behaviour change, works best for those most in need and leads to increased patient activation, improved medication adherence, reduced waste and high levels of patient and clinician satisfaction.

We believe great conversation transforms relationships and health behaviours, to benefit patients, staff and the NHS. We hope people will visit the website: and be inspired to join the social movement, tweet @betterconvo and champion a #betterconversation.