Local MP Rosie Cooper MP is asking why the Conservative District Council has axed a support worker for the GP referral scheme, which has brought great benefit to over 1500 older residents in West Lancashire for the past 8 years.
The council had incorrectly transferred the GP referral scheme workers post to Serco. The council was going correct their mistake by including funding for this post in this budget. Instead the Finance Portfolio Holder, Adrian Owens, decided to make a saving of £36,000 by choosing not continue funding the scheme worker post.
This scheme has delivered a number of initiatives – Life Matters Scheme, Walking the Way to Health, three Nifty 50’s Clubs and most recently a Chair Based Exercise for the Elderly – which aim to improve the health of individuals and to reduce health inequalities across the district. The aim of the GP referral scheme is to use exercise to improve the health of people who suffer with medical conditions such as asthma, angina, diabetes, mental health as well as weight loss. Currently there is a waiting list across all areas for people wanting to use the scheme.
Rosie Cooper MP said:
“This decision will affect the health prospects of many people in West Lancs who would have received help to improve their fitness and medical conditions. I am sure all the people who have benefited from this scheme over the past eight years will be devastated to hear the news of this decision in the Conservative budget. This seems very short sighted when you consider the health and social benefits people get from their involvement in the scheme and that the council are spending even greater sums of money on things like the proposed bandstand in Coronation park and were prepare to put money into the unwanted ‘pods’ in Ormskirk town centre. I am sure if we estimated the costs of these benefits they would be far greater than £36,000.”
“Health is not just the responsibility of the NHS and this post was set up to help people use and access our leisure facilities. Is this cut another result of the privatisation of leisure in West Lancs. Local Government has a long and pioneering history in public health services, it’s a great shame that this isn’t valued by the Conservative controlled council. The health of all our residents needs to be taken very seriously by everyone. I would hope that the District Council would take a more responsible attitude, supporting projects that have direct health benefits to so many local people and reverse their decision to axe this post.”
Councillor Terry Aldridge:
“I am astounded the Conservative’s have cut the funding for such a worthwhile and much needed project. A project that has been used by many of the people I represent in Skelmersdale will be lost. They are prepared to invest monies in a bandstand for Coronation Park but I would be surprised if it attracted the number of people the GP Referral scheme has over the years.”
“I am also led to believe that the Conservative have refused funding from Sport England in the region of £250,000 because they do not see physical activity and health as their priority. As a local authority we should be doing all we can to promote and improve the health of local residents.”
The worker for this project was responsible for working with a whole range of agencies including the NHS, Sure Start, Age Concern. The project was a vital link between local G.P.s and local communities.
All GPs in West Lancashire can refer patients to the scheme where they receive supported physical activity. There are a number of locations used for these activities including Nye Bevan in Skelmersdale, Burscough Sports Centre, Park Pool Ormskirk.