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Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils announce expansion of scheme for GPs to prescribe tailored gym sessions





A GP referral scheme where patients for conditions like obesity and hypertension are prescribed a tailored gym programme is being extended in Babergh and Mid Suffolk.

Doctors have been able to refer patients to the Kingfisher Leisure Centre in Sudbury and Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre in Stowmarket for several years, thanks to a tie-up between the NHS clinical commissioning groups, Babergh and Mid Suffolk councils and their leisure centre providers Abbeycroft Leisure and Everyone Active.

It allows doctors to prescribe a tailored exercise programme at those centres for common conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension, as well as preparation for operations or rehabilitation exercises.

Patient Martin (left) with Babergh District Council's Derek Davis (centre) and Abbeycroft Leisure health and wellbeing practitioner Granville Walker (right). Picture: Babergh Distrct Council
Patient Martin (left) with Babergh District Council's Derek Davis (centre) and Abbeycroft Leisure health and wellbeing practitioner Granville Walker (right). Picture: Babergh Distrct Council

Now, the councils have announced an extension of the programme with a one-year pilot at Hadleigh Pool and Leisure, which began in March, and another soon to launch at Stradbroke Pool and Fitness Centre.

Dr Dean Dorsett, a GP at Burlington Primary Care and personalised care lead for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, which is funding the Hadleigh pilot, said: “It is wonderful to see different parts of our health and care system working together for the benefit of our citizens.

“The ongoing Covid pandemic has exposed the risks of not following the healthiest lifestyle we individually and collectively can.

Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member Harry Richardson (left), with patient Sophie (centre) and Everyone Active fitness manager Kelly Calydon (right). Picture: Mid Suffolk Council
Mid Suffolk District Council cabinet member Harry Richardson (left), with patient Sophie (centre) and Everyone Active fitness manager Kelly Calydon (right). Picture: Mid Suffolk Council

“This is truly an innovative ounce-of-prevention initiative to support Suffolk in being a healthier, happier county.”

The Hadleigh pilot is set to test levels of demand over the course of the year.

One patient to have already had a referral is Nigel Westwell, who has Parkinson’s disease.

He said: “Due to having Parkinson’s I was very concerned about my body strength as most people with Parkinson’s are susceptible to trips and falls and this was something I wanted to avoid.

“Before I joined the scheme I would often stagger when I walked, but now I have improved my strength and balance and I stagger much less.

“I’ve really enjoyed the sprints on the bike which have made my legs much stronger, and the upper body training has made me feel better overall. I am now able to manage my symptoms better, I’m sleeping better, and it’s given me a good appetite.”

Sophie Towler, who has multiple sclerosis, uses the scheme in Stowmarket. She said: “The staff at Mid Suffolk Leisure Centre are very supportive and have helped me to regain my confidence.

“I no longer focus on what I can’t do and am enjoying receiving help in managing my symptoms thanks to the scheme.”

The councils said they hoped the expansion of the scheme will help boost health and wellbeing in the districts.

Babergh’s Independent cabinet member for communities, Derek Davis, said: “Increasing your levels of activity and improving your exercise routine can be a daunting task for anyone, let alone when coupled with underlying health conditions.

“That’s why with tailored support from their GP and Abbeycroft Leisure, our residents can get the lasting support they need to get their health on track for years to come.”

Harry Richardson, Conservative cabinet member for health and wellbeing at Mid Suffolk District Council added: “Through the programmes, trained staff can tailor exercises to the needs of each patient, whether for rehabilitation, in preparation for an operation, or to lose weight for example.”

Those who think they may benefit from a referral should speak to their GP.