Headlines: March 26th, 2008

A local authority is scrapping charges for all its leisure facilities as part of a unique partnership between the council and an NHS trust. The innovative plan has been launched by Blackburn with Darwen Council, working with the local Teaching Primary Care Trust.

The plan to invest six million pounds over three years to improve the health and well-being of people in the area comes in response to what the council and Trust are calling ‘killer facts’ about the borough’s poor health. They show that people in Blackburn with Darwen die eight years earlier on average than in other parts of the country. The Borough has the third worst level of physical activity amongst adults in the country and more than 24,000 people last year drank levels of alcohol likely to harm their health.

The plan will see the phasing out of charges for leisure activities from this summer including ending fees for currently paid for sessions of aerobics, volleyball, indoor and crown green bowling and badminton in an attempt to encourage people to take part in everyday sport.

There will also be lifelong learning sessions to educate people to the benefits of regular exercise and other diet and lifestyle changes; the appointment of five more health trainers; new community coaches and instructors to provide sport and fitness in local communities and longer opening hours for community centres. There will also be investment in family weekend activities, more activities in local neighbourhoods and money to encourage people to help change behaviour and attitudes to health improvement.

The Leader of the Council Colin Rigby, said, “Every year, people in this borough are dying needlessly. We want people to live longer, healthier and better lives. We believe that this new plan will help do that, but people must want to do something themselves.” He was supported by Nick Kennedy, chairman of the Teaching Primary Care Trust, who said, “The PCT and Council have launched a unique partnership with a massive investment to encourage local people to take part in exercise and sport. If people want to improve their health and well-being, we want to support them.”