Hospitals and doctor’s offices should be located near or on the same sites as gyms and spas to support patients to have healthier lifestyles. Within the next 10 years, these so-called wellness centers should be created in the towns of England, according to Mel Pickup, Chief Executive of Warrington and Halton Hospitals in Cheshire. With this proposal, patients would be able to attend zumba classes or have facials within the same area where they would have their doctor’s appointment.
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However, the NHS is currently facing a severe funding crisis and is struggling to meet the needs of its rising and aging population, while also paying for new drugs. These problems make the plans seem very unrealistic.
“To think that NHS chiefs, in all seriousness, are suggesting that the NHS should be providing facials to coax grown adults to lead healthy lifestyles is farcical,” Mark Littlewood, director general of the Institute of Economic Affairs,said in an article by The Telegraph.
“How facials — typically associated with luxury and not medical necessity — can legitimately be supplied at the expense of the taxpayer is an insult to those who have been denied vital treatments by the NHS for illnesses such as cancer,” he added.
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Pickup admitted that the proposals were ambitious and were unlikely to happen until at least five or ten years’ time.
Yet, Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, still thought otherwise.
“I think this is exactly what we should be doing. The NHS is the most powerful brand that we have got, but the focus has always been on illness, not health,” Selbie said.
He added that since hospitals are part of the community, they should make more of that role.
“This is the smartest move we could make. This is the big step forward — we want to see this everywhere,” expressed Selbie. “Encouraging people to make changes to their lifestyles is by far the most sustainable way of achieving change and saving money in the long run.”
The proposals are part of the NHS’s “Healthy New Towns” initiative in which 10 areas of England are pioneering different schemes to improve the health of their population. They have been backed up by England’s government agency for preventing ill health called the Public Health England, who said that fun and enjoyment helped in keeping people healthy. (: The world’s first ‘healthy towns’ to be unveiled in the U.K.)
In Halton Lea, Cheshire, one of the healthy new towns, NHS managers aimed to create paths and cycle ways to encourage more exercise.
Pickup, who was also a nurse, said that they were also intending to set up wellness centers with hospitals, doctor’s offices, and leisure facilities all in one site.
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“It could be about having a facial in the spa, or going to a zumba class alongside MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans and hip replacements,” she said.
Pickup said that this is the creation of a faculty that includes health and well-being and it would redefine what a hospital does as it would not only be just a sickness service, but also a wellness center that would encourage better lifestyles. It would bring together healthcare, such as diagnostic care and elective treatment, with more unusual options.
“It would be a shared facility for the acute care and for the community to socialize, to exercise, and to swim.” she added.
In Sandwell, West Midlands, a lifestyle center was built with funding from the NHS and local authority, according to The Telegraphreport. It offers a climbing wall, hydrotherapy pool, sensory garden, and dance studio.