A COURSE to help people cope with long-term illness will begin in Sedgefield next month.

Sedgefield Primary Care Trust will begin its third Expert Patient Programme at the Pioneering Care Centre, in Newton Aycliffe, on March 4.

The scheme is part of a national scheme developed by the Department of Health, and offers courses to help people come to terms with a long-term illness or condition, including arthritis, asthma, back pain, diabetes, heart conditions, multiple sclerosis and mental health problems.

The courses are designed to run alongside medical treatments and have helped previous patients suffer fewer symptoms and less pain, and improved their self-confidence.

They will be run by tutors who also suffer from long-term conditions and will cover topics including pain management, communicating with health professionals and coping with depression.

Claire Kippin, community health specialist for Sedgefield Primary Care Trust, said: "The Expert Patient Programme has been very successful in the Sedgefield borough and we hope that the forthcoming course will also be well attended.

"The course starting on February 4 will take place over six consecutive weeks, each session lasting approximately two-and-a-half hours, and will be co-ordinated by our newly qualified lay-tutors Michael White, Jim Brown and Brian Wilson."

Volunteers will be given the opportunity to receive accredited training so they can deliver self-management courses to people in similar circumstances.

The courses are free of charge and transport can be provided if needed. To find out more about the programme, contact Ms Kippin on 0191-301 3813.