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Better conversation: Better health – Join the social movement for #betterconversation

18 October 2016 | Penny Newman

NHS Innovation Accelerator Fellow, Penny Newman, explains the motivation behind her new #betterconversation campaign; empowering people to take control of their health and care.

“Our aim is to enable people to thrive by feeling motivated, confident and in control of their own health and care, achieved through #betterconversation (

“We all know we need to look after our health, but often don’t know how to change bad habits. As a GP some of my patients – frequently with long term conditions – returned repeatedly as they were unable to change their weight, exercise, smoking and medication compliance; felt insufficiently confident to self-manage; and thought I had all the answers. I wanted to optimise my patients’ care and my time, yet felt limited by solely prescribing or referral, which often ducked the core issue of motivation. Training in communication skills was minimal, despite complaints increasing.

“In 2010 at a leadership coaching development programme, I recognised how a coaching approach could be used with colleagues and patients. It could help shift a ‘diagnose and fix’ mind-set as ‘expert’, and the ensuing conversation to one that was more ‘shared and enabling’; helping clinicians flex the ingrained biomedical model for 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. This was then rolled out to 800 clinicians from all professions 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 country’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs).

“The training helps empower people to take control of their health and care by building on what clinicians already do and their:

  • Seeing people as resourceful (rather than just needing professional help)
  • Being curious and asking good questions (rather than advice giving)
  • Identifying what’s most important to each person (rather than solely meeting clinician’s targets)
  • Helping people identify changes that fit in with their lives (rather than clinicians’ just offering their own solutions).

“Health coaching is a truly person-centred process and partnership between clinicians and patients; it raises patients’ awareness and responsibility through a discovery process. Based on behaviour change science, it works best for those most in need and leads to increased patient activation and medication adherence, reduced waste and high levels of patient and clinician satisfaction.

“In September we launched a new set of ‘Better Conversation’ resources at two sell-out events in Cambridge and Liverpool. To help local areas introduce the approach to improve the quality of conversation, and health and wellbeing, films and slides from the events are now available together with research evidence, patient stories, a short video, infographics, a resource guide and online community.

“My hope is that people will visit the website and use these new resources to have great conversations; thereby transforming relationships and health behaviours to benefit patients, staff and the NHS.”

For more information visit To join the social movement and champion a #betterconversation follow @betterconvo on Twitter.

Health Coaching was one of 17 innovations selected for the 2015/16 NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA). The NIA, now in its second year, supports some of the best healthcare innovators with evidence-based innovations to help improve health outcomes and give patients access to the latest products, services and technology at lower cost. The NIA is an NHS England initiative hosted by UCLPartners in partnership with the country’s 15 Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs). Outcomes to date include 17 Fellows with tried and tested innovations participating in the programme, generation of almost £17millon in funding, and 345 additional NHS providers and commissioners now using the NIA innovations.