Heart Support groups are community based peer to peer support groups for anyone with any kind of heart condition as well as their partners and families. They are independent organisations (some registered charities in their own right) that are affiliated to the British Heart Foundation (BHF). There are nearly 300 groups across England and Wales. Groups are very varied in nature: some are large organisations offering a weekly programme of activities, while others are much smaller and meet once a month. Groups offer the chance to share experiences in a friendly and mutually supportive environment, and provide a wide range of other benefits and activities for their members. The types of activities that groups undertake could include:
- exercise sessions with qualified instructors
- walking, cycling and swimming groups
- coffee mornings and other social events
- evenings with guest speakers
- links to other services such as quitting smoking
- hospital visiting
- yoga and relaxation classes, and
- visits to places of interest.
- involvement with local NHS organisations (GP patient participation groups, CCGs, Hospital Trusts, HealthWatch etc)
By affiliating to the British Heart Foundation, groups that are less than six months old can receive a £500 start-up grant. All Heart Support Groups also get free public liability insurance; access to BHF resources; help with recruitment and publicity; opportunities to attend support group events and network; and a free Heart Support Group Quarterly Newsletter.
Many groups have been running for years and years and have provided great benefit to their individual members, combatting fear and isolation as well as providing practical support for their members in living well with their condition and preventing problems from escalating – for example through provision of exercise classes.
“We've all got the same problems - that's what brought us together - but we all have an incredibly positive outlook. That's what keeps people coming back.”
Heart Support Group member
For BHF, Heart Support Groups also provide strong community links and presence. BHF provide an online directory of local groups on their website, as well as signposting for callers to their Helpline. The directory includes contact details and information on when and where the group meet, as well as what activities the group are involved in to enable people to find the group that is most suited to meet your needs.