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NHS general practitioners (GPs)

The Expert Patients Programme (EPP)

The Expert Patients Programme (EPP) is a self-management programme for people living with a chronic (long-term) condition. The aim is to support people by:

  • increasing their confidence
  • improving their quality of life
  • helping them manage their condition more effectively

What is an expert patient?

Many GPs who care for people with chronic conditions say that the patient often understands the condition better than they do. This is not surprising – many patients become experts as they learn to cope with their chronic conditions.

There is evidence that, with proper support, people with a chronic condition can take the lead in managing their condition. This helps improve their health and quality of life, and reduces their incapacity.

An expert patient is someone who:

  • feels confident and in control of their life
  • aims to manage their condition and its treatment in partnership with healthcare professionals
  • communicates effectively with professionals and is willing to share responsibility for treatment
  • is realistic about how their condition affects them and their family
  • uses their skills and knowledge to lead a full life 

About EPP courses

The EPP course is open to anyone with a long-term condition. You don't need to be sent by your GP or hospital doctor, though it is helpful to let them know you're going on the course. The initial EPP course covers the following topics:

  • dealing with pain and extreme tiredness
  • coping with feelings of depression
  • relaxation techniques and exercises
  • healthy eating
  • communicating with family, friends and healthcare professionals
  • planning for the future

The course is free and consists of six consecutive weekly sessions, with each session lasting around two-and-a-half hours. The sessions are run by two tutors who both have a chronic condition. You can participate as much or as little as you wish.

Your doctor or local NHS community healthcare organisation can help you find suitable courses in your area. Alternatively, type "Expert Patients Programme" and the town or city where you live into Google – for example, "Expert Patients Programme Leeds" – to find your local course.

Alternative courses

Most EPP courses are designed to deal with any type of chronic condition, although some courses focus on a specific condition. For example, there is a course on diabetes and one on persistent (day-to-day) pain. There are also several courses for the parents and guardians of children with chronic conditions.

For more information about self-management courses, visit the self management uk website.

Children 12-18 years of age

If you're aged 12 to 18 and living with a chronic condition, there are workshops available specifically for your age group. These are run by tutors who are a similar age (from 14 to 25 years old) and also live with a chronic condition. You can find out more about the workshops on the Staying Positive website.

The benefits

According to research, the benefits of self-management include:

  • reducing the severity of symptoms
  • significantly decreasing pain
  • improving life control and activity
  • improving resourcefulness and life satisfaction

In particular, one survey of 1,000 people who had taken part in an EPP found that they:

An evaluation of the EPP by the National Primary Care Research and Development Centre (NPCRDC) found that the EPP course increased people's self-confidence to change their behaviour. The results also highlighted that the number of overnight stays in hospitals was reduced, and the overall frequency that people used health services remained the same.

Contact details

For further details about EPP courses in your area and any other general enquiries, contact self management uk by emailing hello@selfmanagementuk.org, or call 03333 445 840.

self management uk also offers resources, services and training to organisations that wish to run their own courses.

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Page last reviewed: 21/05/2014

Next review due: 21/05/2016

What is a chronic condition?

Chronic health conditions are conditions that can be controlled but not cured. Living with a chronic condition can have a significant impact on a person's quality of life, as well as on their family and carers.

Common chronic conditions

Long-term conditions

Living with a long-term condition, including healthcare, medicines and support

How to get NHS help for long-term pain

Find out how to get help from your GP or local hospital if you have persistent pain

Go on a self-help course

Find out about free courses for people with long-term conditions to boost your confidence, pain relief and coping skills