Supported self-management education guide

Self management education (SME) is any form of education or training for people with long-term conditions focused on helping them to develop the capability and motivation to effectively manage their own health, and/or that of someone they may care for.

It typically focuses on the skills needed to manage long-term physical and mental health conditions and can be condition specific or more generic. SME covers health topics such as diet, exercise, emotional impact, pain, fatigue as well as condition specific elements, where appropriate.

SME can be delivered in a group or through individual self-directed learning, and may be face-to-face, online or a combination. Sessions are typically two hours and run weekly for six to eight weeks.

Although the sessions themselves include peer support and draw on positive psychology and other frameworks, participants often benefit from joining peer support groups after their course for ongoing support. Likewise, some people may benefit from additional targeted support through one-one health coaching.

Benefits of self-management education

SME is effective in increasing people’s capacity to understand and act on health information and to identify the issues that most affect their wellbeing. It has proven to be cost effective for major conditions including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory and musculoskeletal problems and has to been shown to improve health outcomes and reduce unwarranted service use.

The goal of SME is to empower individuals to take an active role in their health care, improve their quality of life, and reduce the need for planned and unplanned care. It can support people to manage their symptoms, prevent complications, and achieve better overall health outcomes – both clinical and non-clinical. For example, a review of group-based education for people with Type 2 diabetes found there were significant improvements for those who attended, including improved glycemic control and body weight, along with better self-management skills and knowledge of diabetes. Other courses for diabetes (Type 1 and 2) have led to improved quality of life, reduction in anxiety and depression and reduction in the risk of complications.

What self-management education programmes are available?

The Quality Institute of Self-Management Education and Training interventions (QISMET) is a national independent not-for-profit body that supports self-management education providers to achieve high quality services. It does this by developing quality standards, defining good practice and certificating providers against these standards.

Its website features an accreditation register of SME providers that have developed a range of evidence-based SME courses for conditions including long covid, heart disease, cancer, respiratory, hypertension, pain anxiety, HIV, diabetes, depression and menopause.

The SME certified courses on the QISMET website can be commissioned health and care service providers.

In addition, The Health Foundation created a range of self-management resources and materials though the Co-creating Health Programme. These are license and copyright free and are available from the British Medical Journal Improvement Hub  or the Centre for Empowering Patients and Communities CIC.

Publication reference: PRN00827