Increasing self-management skills in people with long-term conditions is widely advocated in policies and guidelines. Group programmes are a common format; yet, how self-management support objectives are enacted in their delivery is poorly understood. Our aim is to explore the perspectives of group programme facilitators.
We undertook thematic analysis of transcribed data from in-depth semi-structured interviews with health professional facilitators (n = 13) from six diverse self-management support group programmes (of obesity, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
Facilitators viewed group programmes as responses to health system pressures, e.g. high patient demand. They focussed on providing in-depth education and instruction on physical health, risks and lifestyle behaviour change and emphasised self-responsibility for behaviour change whilst minimising goal setting and support amongst group participants. There were tensions between facilitators’ professional identity and group leader role.
Group self-management support programmes may not be realising the broader aspirations advocated in long-term condition policy to support medical, emotional and social aspects of long-term conditions by minimising shared learning, problem solving, building of self-efficacy and goal setting. This suggests a disconnect at implementation. Increasing understandings of theoretical and practical self-management support in group programmes across both implementation and health professional (HCP) training will further the professional skills in this format.