Harwich Town Council

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Activities at leisure centres for those with health conditions

People suffering with Long Covid, heart disease and other long-term health conditions could qualify for referral onto a newly expanded scheme at Tendring Leisure Centres.

Tendring District Council (TDC) is launching the Back to Health initiative in a bid to improve the well-being of residents in the area.

Lynda McWilliams, TDC Cabinet Member for Partnerships, said the initiative was an expansion of the existing GP Referral Scheme and was fully supported by partners in the health service.

“We want to improve the health of people with both mental and physical long-term conditions; this will not only give them a better quality of life, but also reduce the impact and pressure on our health services,” Cllr McWilliams said.

“As a member of the North East Essex Health and Wellbeing Alliance we understand that no one organisation – and certainly not just the NHS – can tackle health issues, which have deep roots in our day-to-day living. So by supporting partners with schemes such as this we can help to make everyone’s lives better.”

Under the scheme those with qualifying health conditions may be referred by a health professional to either instructor-led gym sessions, or the Back to Health Fitness Class at the council’s three leisure centres in Clacton, Dovercourt and Walton. The cost to participants will be £2.80 per activity.

After an initial six weeks of sessions participants will be assessed, with the option for a further six weeks if appropriate.  After completion of the 12-week course people will also qualify for reduced rate leisure centre membership for the rest of the year.

In addition a free hot drink will be provided at the end of each session to provide a social element – encouraging participants to bond, support each other with ongoing activity, and tackle loneliness and isolation.

Conditions which will qualify people for referral include heart disease, hypertension, obesity, stroke, diabetes, COPD, severe asthma, Long Covid, mental health, some musculoskeletal conditions and cancer rehabilitation.

Running as a 48-week pilot initiative Back to Health will cost £30,000, funded from TDC’s Back to Business programme; a series of schemes designed to help the area recover and come back stronger both physically and economically from the Covid-19 pandemic.

It enhances the current GP Referral plan by offering more health professionals the ability to refer, and a wider referral criteria.

Cllr Alex Porter, TDC Cabinet Member for Leisure and Tourism, added: “Our leisure centres are great facilities open to all; but it makes sense to particularly support people with health conditions so we can help them to improve their quality of life.”

People cannot self-refer to the scheme, with GPs, social prescribers, practice nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists all being able to send people to the programme.