Why behaviour change is important

Dr Gill Rawlinson, assistant director of practice and development at the CSP, has just completed a PhD in behaviour change and believes learning skills on the subject should be a high priority for healthcare professionals.

‘The UK exercise guidelines clearly state strengthening is a key component and can have a massive impact,’ she said.

‘Its benefits are multifaceted, especially for bone heath, and cardiovascular conditions, and we can teach patients to live longer and have better quality lives.

‘We must stress the importance of patients building it into their daily routines, but the key to this is listening to them.

‘There’s no point in forcing your opinions - it’s their point of view that matters.

‘The COM-B model is really valuable because it centres on capability, opportunity and motivation. Giving patients facts doesn't change behaviour. Behaviour change is a complex thing and unless you look at it holistically, you won't get anywhere.

‘Ask about their opportunity to do strength training. It can be a social and physical opportunity to do what you want them to. You see patients for a limited time intervention but we're trying to change people’s behaviour in the long term.

Gill is mindful of the pressure healthcare professionals are under, but Stronger My Way should not be viewed as an extra task.

She continued: ‘I would ask professionals: what are the things you can stop doing? We need to reframe it, to show this is exactly what we should be doing.

‘Reframing it so we understand what we should be spending time on. It doesn't always go down well with everybody, but that's the key to reframing.

‘My golden rule is think about the time you've got available, and what is the best intervention. What will have the biggest impact?  Doing behaviour change and strength is going to be far more effective than many other things.’

Gill believes this is a critical component in supporting self-management.

She added: ‘Think about the few weeks you've got them as patients. There's going to a big drop off the end of a cliff upon discharge. What’s needed, in people with long term conditions, is to instil the confidence and teach them how to do it alone.’

‘Giving them an opportunity to do group physiotherapy helps to transition them to self-management. We get criticised because patients come for their first appointment and are given a sheet of exercises and told to get on with them. This is the opposite of what we should be doing.’

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