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April 2019

Group work ‘helps people help themselves’

More widespread use of group work for adults with long-term illnesses could have significant benefits for patients and staff in general practice, according to a new study in the British Journal of General Practice.

A systematic review of randomised controlled trials found that group work was associated with statistically significant improvements in pain, psychological outcomes, self-efficacy, self-care and quality of life.

Despite mixed results between studies, and some studies showing only short-lived benefits, the review concluded that group work should be more widely used in the management and support of adults with long-term illness.

Around 15.4 million people in the UK are living with a long term condition, and care of this population accounts for 70% of the health and social care spend in England.

Lead author, Dr Margaret Jackson commented: ‘As the number of people with long term conditions increases, we need effective ways to help people help themselves.

Group work can be empowering, and support people in taking control of their health and illness.’

The authors point out wide variations in the included studies in terms of length of follow-up, the number of group hours offered, and the interventions studied. They concluded that group work led to ‘many positive outcomes’ but are calling for further research to evaluate professional versus lay-led group work, and to examine which specific elements of group interventions would be most useful.

Jackson M, et al. Br J Gen Pract, published online 9 April 2019.