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Community engagement transforms health of an entire town

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Community engagement aids healthcare services Community engagement aids healthcare services

A local GP has been acclaimed for starting a community-based movement to improve the health of his town.

Dr Mark Spencer began the ‘Healthier Fleetwood’ initiative in 2016 for the town of Fleetwood, in order to combat health issues and engage the community in improving their health. This movement began with community meetings that focused on establishing services that the community wanted.

The movement implemented changes to local healthcare systems. A federation was established across local general practices, enabling them to share their resources, tackle staff shortages and provide appointments outside of working hours. Local pharmacists were also granted access to GP records, allowing them to directly support the residents with their medical requirements.

Two years later, there are clear improvements to the local community. The staffing in Fleetwood general practices has improved, reducing the workload for primary healthcare professionals. There are now more than 100 clinicians working to support the residents of Fleetwood and there has been a reduction in patient admission to primary and secondary healthcare facilities. The Healthier Fleetwood team were awarded Primary Care Home of the Year, at the National Association of Primary Care awards in October of 2018.

The movement also aimed to encourage engagement in activities that would improve people’s health, both physical and mental, and to move away from treatments that involved drugs. This move to activities over traditional treatments, especially in regard to mental health, is known as social prescribing and helps reduce pressure on local services.

‘The initiative has been hugely significant for our town. We are now able to do what all GPs want to do; care for their community,’ Says Dr Mark Spencer. ‘Helping residents become active players has transformed their relationship with us. The increased community confidence, events and wellbeing schemes would not have been possible without this initiative.’

Fleetwood, a town in Lancashire, experienced a rapid deterioration following the collapse of the fishing industry 40 years ago and the closure of the local chemical plant 20 years ago. These events led to a rise in local unemployment and poverty and a subsequent rise in poor health. Fleetwood experienced an increase in cases of cancer, heart and lung diseases, mental health issues and addiction to both alcohol and drugs.

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