The UK Expert Patients Program: lessons learned and implications for cancer survivors' self-care support programs

J Cancer Surviv. 2008 Mar;2(1):45-52. doi: 10.1007/s11764-007-0040-z.


Globally, the enablement of self-care is increasingly being recognised as an essential component of chronic disease management. Within the UK a key self-care policy initiative is the Expert Patients Program. Developed from the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, this is a 6 week self-management education program for people with different chronic diseases, facilitated by lay volunteers. As an example of a major public health initiative designed to enhance self-management in long-term conditions, this paper draws on evaluations of the EPP and CDSMP and analyzes the implications for the development of similar programs for cancer survivors. There are a number of evaluations of the CDSMP which suggest significant improvement in participants' chronic disease management self-efficacy and some evidence of healthcare utilization reduction. However, whilst the national evaluation of the EPP demonstrated similar improvements in self-efficacy and health status, there was no significant effect on healthcare utilization. Trials of such programs need to be treated with some caution as participants are often not typical of the general population, and as a complex intervention effectiveness is inherently difficult to assess. Qualitative evaluations revealed that the EPP's strength was derived mainly through peer support and learning. Nevertheless, a number of contextual problems were identified including recruitment, clinicians' lack of engagement with the program and inflexible course materials. Lay-led self-care support programs such as the EPP have a significantly positive effect on self-efficacy which could be of benefit to cancer survivors. However, a number of lessons should be learned from the EPP when developing similar initiatives for cancer survivors.

MeSH terms

  • Exercise
  • Fitness Centers
  • Health Policy
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Professional-Patient Relations
  • Self Care*
  • Social Support*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • United Kingdom