Making Every Contact Count (MECC) is an approach to behaviour change that many will be familiar with. The idea is simple – it uses day-to-day conversations to promote positive and healthy lifestyle behaviour change by encouraging people to talk about and refect upon the impact of risky lifestyle behaviours.

Surrey Heartlands launched its MECC programme last autumn for front-line staff across the partnership. Over the next 18 months or so we’re offering training ranging from a 90 minute refresher to a full day programme to provide the skills and confidence that staff need to conduct the conversations that will support people to consider changing their lifestyle choices. We will also be offering a train the trainer option to ensure our approach is sustainable.

So why is this important? The NHS spends more than £15.5 billion each year treating illness which directly results from smoking, unsafe levels of alcohol consumption, obesity, hypertension and unhealthy levels of physical activity. Within Surrey, it’s estimated that 67% of people have two or three of these unhealthy lifestyle behaviours. And much of this is avoidable. For our workforces we also want to create systems that encourage a collective value base towards prevention and workplace health.   

A key theme in the recently published NHS Long-Term Plan, making changes such as improving diet, increasing exercise, losing weight, reducing alcohol consumption and quitting smoking can help people significantly reduce their risk of disease, and ease the burden upon NHS services which are already at capacity, while supporting existing workplace wellbeing initiatives.  

However, it’s not always easy for our staff to raise questions about unhealthy lifestyle-related behaviours, and this is where the training has been helping to make a difference. A major part of it is teaching participants to enhance and build upon the conversational techniques and skills that they already have and then look at how to use those to promote behaviour change.

I’ve been really excited by the feedback so far, as participants are saying they felt more confident in delivering a healthy conversation post training and felt the skills to be invaluable to their roles. Let me share just a couple of recent comments with you:

‘The training was extremely valuable and entirely appropriate for all midwives from a public health viewpoint all the motivational interviewing thread is relevant for all staff especially managers’. Consultant Midwife

‘I feel that the way that sustain talk and change talk is taught, how to influence people and working with change talk really will really help me in the future through many different conversations I may have. It is a real positive change on how we deal with some of the more difficult issues we have to address and would be fantastic to see more people using it.’
Operations Manager, District and Borough Council   

Some of the greatest improvements in health outcomes have resulted from addressing the causes of diseases rather than just treating their consequences, and MECC has a valuable role to play as part of this.  I look forward to seeing more and more of our teams take advantage of this free training during 2019.

Amy McCarthy, MECC Programme Manager