Should exercise classes be provided on the NHS in Lancashire?

Cheaper and more accessible exercise classes are one of the things which Lancashire residents would most like to see to help them improve their health and wellbeing.

By Paul Faulkner
Wednesday, 27th November 2019, 4:48 pm

That is one of the findings of a county-wide survey into opinions on how the NHS should develop over the next decade.

But the role of the public sector in fulfilling the demand for more affordable fitness options was questioned at a meeting of the Lancashire health and wellbeing board – with several members noting that there are plenty of free ways to get fit.

“Why is it up to public services to provide cheaper exercise?” asked the chair of Central Lancashire’s two clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), Denis Gizzi.

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How do Lancashire residents feel that the NHS could best help them with their health and wellbeing?

“There is evidence that communities can come together and solve these things for themselves – although they might need some help to set it up.”

But chief executive of Chorley Council, Gary Hall, warned that the ability for communities to be self-starting in addressing their health needs varied in different parts of the county.

“Some communities are doing it already – but then some are better placed than others,” he said.

The meeting heard other headline findings from the Healthwatch Lancashire survey which asked for residents’ thoughts on the NHS long-term plan which was published at the start of the year.

Better access to GP surgeries, support for mental health issues and consistency of access to NHS services were amongst the main demands.

The survey also revealed that the “go-to place” for people with health concerns is still their GP.

“The GP is of paramount importance, but younger people were slightly more open to the new roles [being promoted under the long-term plan] – however, we all like to be seen by people we are familiar with,” explained Healthwatch Lancashire’s chief operating officer, Sue Stevenson.

Amongst the new job titles starting to appear in practices across Lancashire are physician associates, who support GPs in the diagnosis and management of patients, and community paramedics, who try to prevent patients being admitted to hospital. Meanwhile, social prescribers will direct patients to community and voluntary services which may be able to help them.

There was little awareness of the “primary care networks” – collaborations of GP practices covering a total of between 30,000 and 50,000 patients – under which the NHS is evolving.

However, residents were clear about what could help them look after their own health – better housing, more green spaces and support from employers.

They also expressed concern for NHS staff and whether they were being given the support and training they need to adjust to the changes within the system.

The health and wellbeing board resolved to write to the five integrated care partnerships (ICPs) in Lancashire – which are working to improve co-operation between health and social care services – to ensure that their plans reflect the findings of the survey.