Health Guides have emerged from many experiences. Our pioneers have learnt primarily from their own patients, with over 150 years of clinical practice between them. Each has then gone on to inspire, innovate and lead on their journey to hand people back their own management of health and wellbeing.
SustainCare Community Interest Company is a social enterprise set up to return health care to its owners: “learning to look after ourselves and our families in ways that make sense and do not cost the earth“. It is founded on the principle that one’s health is a personal story, and that illness is best managed when we make our health care our own. The enterprise brings clinical expertise, extensive experience of academia, education and business, and the connections and resources to deliver new approaches. From 2008-11 Sustaincare led a major project on behalf of the UK Department of Health: Integrated Self Care in Family Medicine. This engaged two clinical centres, Bromley by Bow in Tower Hamlets, London, an iconic pioneer in community-centred health care and social prescription, and the Culm Valley NHS Integrated Centre for Health in Cullompton, Devon. In both these practices ‘health facilitators’ were already in place and a major lesson from the project was that self care is more productive when you are not alone. A facilitator can help in two ways, by providing expert guidance in self care directly, and by enabling peer group interactions. As its own social enterprise contribution to this project Sustaincare set up and supported Café Sustain as a demonstration ‘Intelligent Waiting Room’. We learnt that by simply providing an open space for meeting, with no set agenda, and then adding a health facilitator, the dynamics of the practice were transformed. Group and self-care initiatives appeared and prospered. The Department of Health project also led to the production of the evidence-based Self Care Library by academics at the University of Westminster in London. This is now assigned to Sustaincare on the basis that it will remain free for public access. From 2011-14 the company used a medieval hall next to its offices in Exeter as a demonstration site for a community ‘Hub on the Green’. Community Projects Director Joey Lee created an exciting venue for a range of self care projects, where she piloted a model for community-based health care and networked with other community organisations. We led a number of city-wide bids, working with Exeter’s family practices, key community and voluntary groups, and the major mental health provider. We remain a core member of a voluntary sector consortium in the city.
Health Guides extend all this. They are facilitators of self care, they can work in any sector of health care, and are aware of the community context of their work. They could be health and social care professionals extending their core practice, or they could be employed in larger practices as facilitators. In one exciting model we have explored they could set themselves up as human ‘hubs’, acting as points of referral for social prescriptions from other health professionals, and as points of contacts to the many community and creative resources and talents available in the locality.
Sustaincare CIC is a company registered in the UK as a legally defined social enterprise. It formally generates profits for the community benefit and is subject to caps on dividends and an asset lock. It will build the boat to float and steer the Health Guide enterprise in the widest public interest.
Simon has covered much ground in his pursuit of his vision of people-powered health care since completing his Medical Sciences degree at Cambridge. He has been in regular clinical practice since 1977 as a herbal practitioner. He attended the birth of complementary medicine in the late 1970’s and was a leader in the sector for the next two decades, culminating as Special Advisor to the seminal House of Lords report in 2000. In 1987 he co-founded the world’s first University complementary health studies unit and since then has set up and led three Masters-degree health programmes in the UK and USA, including the first integrated health programme at a UK medical school, as well as a initiatives at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. He has led a large multi-centre research programmes for the EU, projects for the UK Department of Health, and a major international project to set up an innovative plant medicine resource. Simon has published widely in the scientific literature, including randomised controlled clinical research studies; and with Kerry Bone has authored the leading international textbooks on the efficacy and safety of herbal medicine. From time to time it has been necessary to pull in funds to support his work as an international consultant in consumer health.
Alex has brought food, medicine, community and gardens together as founder director of the charity Living Medicine . She has led exciting community educational projects across London. She set up the first herbal clinic in hospital dermatology at Whipps Cross University Hospital, and also practises herbal medicine at The Haven breast cancer support centre in London.
David was a leader in the original holistic medical movement in the 1980s and 90s. A founding member and longtime Chair of the British Holistic Medical Association, he worked as a GP (and later osteopath and Director of the Complementary Therapies Unit) in the pioneering Healing Centre in the crypt of Marylebone Church. He is a registered medical practitioner and Clinical Director in the Faculty of Science and Technology’s Polyclinic at the University of Westminster where as Professor of Integrated Healthcare, he also leads the Centre for Resilience. He is a widely published researcher and primary author of many integrated healthcare and self care books and articles. David is the founding editor of the Journal of Holistic Healthcare and editor-in-chief of the Self Care Library which his team produced for the Department of Health.