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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 who are 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 understands the condition better than they do. This is not surprising as 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 to improve their health and quality of life, and reduces their incapacity (lack of strength or ability).

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 your local NHS community healthcare organisation can help you find suitable courses in your area. Alternatively, Google 'Expert Patients Programme' and the town/city where you live. For example, Expert Patients Programme Leeds.

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 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 are 12-18 years of age and you are living with a chronic condition, there are workshops available for you. These are run by tutors who are 14-25 years of age and who 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-efficacy (their self-confidence to change their behaviour). The results also highlighted that the number of overnight stays in hospitals was reduced, and that the overall amount 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 ukalso offers resources, services and training to organisations that wish to run their own courses.

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Page last reviewed: 21/05/2124

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

The Expert Patients Programme

The Expert Patients Programme is a training course run by the NHS that helps people manage their long-term conditions. Patients describe how the programme has helped them cope with chronic illness.

Media last reviewed: 14/05/2013

Next review due: 14/05/2015

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