Opinion

Clinical teams should have a Changing Faces practitioner

The pioneering UK charity that specialises in psychosocial interventions is set to work in NHS hospitals alongside clinical colleagues.
Changing Faces

The pioneering UK charity that specialises in psychosocial interventions is set to work in NHS hospitals alongside clinical colleagues

The UK charity Changing Faces supports patients and their families living with the psychological and social challenges of disfigurement. We also provide training for healthcare professionals to support patients psychosocial needs.

While medical and/or surgical treatments for disfiguring conditions such as cancer are increasingly sophisticated, patients are often left with an altered appearance, and they and their families can experience some psychological difficulties. The right psychosocial support at the right time reduces the distress experienced by patients and significantly reduces the risk of them developing psychological problems later.

Patients concerns

Key findings from extensive academic and clinical research and the

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The pioneering UK charity that specialises in psychosocial interventions is set to work in NHS hospitals alongside clinical colleagues

The UK charity Changing Faces supports patients and their families living with the psychological and social challenges of disfigurement. We also provide training for healthcare professionals to support patients’ psychosocial needs.

While medical and/or surgical treatments for disfiguring conditions such as cancer are increasingly sophisticated, patients are often left with an altered appearance, and they and their families can experience some psychological difficulties. The right psychosocial support at the right time reduces the distress experienced by patients and significantly reduces the risk of them developing psychological problems later.


Changing Faces supports people who have any condition or injury that affects
their appearance, anywhere in the UK. Picture: Yakub Merchant/Changing Faces

Patients’ concerns

Key findings from extensive academic and clinical research and the charity’s experience is that, despite different medical conditions, patients’ psychosocial concerns are likely to be similar. For more than 20 years, Changing Faces has delivered disfigurement-specific psychosocial care, and we are now pioneering a new type of professional, a Changing Faces practitioner (CFP), in five NHS hospital settings working alongside their clinical colleagues.

A CFP is skilled in delivering our well-tested psychosocial interventions, and their role is vital in enabling patients to feel more understood and more positive about their appearance and quality of life, by increasing their self-confidence and self-belief. CFPs come from a range of backgrounds such as counselling and nursing, and are trained to deliver the FACES care package in a tailored way for each patient with a disfigurement and their families.

FACES care package

F Finding Out – having full realistic information about the condition and its treatment.

A Attitude – developing a positive outlook/belief system.

C Coping – acknowledging and dealing with feelings.

E Exchanging Experiences – with others who have ‘been there’.

S Social Skills Training – managing other people’s reactions.

 

The practitioners respond to a range of commonly identified concerns that make individuals vulnerable to low self-esteem, depression and social isolation because of their loss of self-image and identity. They will also help with difficult everyday social encounters where patients may feel self-conscious because of being stared at intrusively, avoided, patronised, or what is worse – being ridiculed or rejected.

Our practitioners will also provide emotional support, practical advice, cognitive behaviour therapy interventions and social skills training one-to-one and in groups. They give advice and training for other professionals in their work with patients, signpost and refer people to other organisations and professionals, and treat patients with mild to moderate mental health issues arising from a disfigurement.

Improving self-esteem

To date, our service has achieved high satisfaction rates, with our 2013-14 clinical audit demonstrating that 91% of patients surveyed said the service was helpful.

The role is being evaluated for its cost-effectiveness as a tier 2 intervention providing preventive and active treatment value at a lower cost than clinical psychology.

Evidence suggests that the practitioners deliver significant improvements in patients’ self-esteem and confidence as well as their quality of life, enabling them to cope better with concerns about their appearance.

The role should be increasingly considered by clinical teams because it can equip patients with the necessary ‘disfigurement life skills’ to manage their condition and can lessen the need for repeated contacts with hospital clinicians, GPs and follow-on services such as mental health services. It can also lessen the demand for medical interventions to address concerns about their appearance.

For more information, see changingfaces.org.uk


Henrietta Spalding is head of advocacy at Changing Faces

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