The Colwyn Bay Health Care and Well-being Precinct is a partnership between Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, Conwy County Borough Council and the Welsh Rugby Union.
It aims to improve the health of people living in Conwy through community based physical activity.This can be to prevent ill health, manage chronic illnesses, or form part of rehabilitation programmes.
The initiative was developed in response to a number of issues including reducing budgets, increasing demand for physiotherapy services, a lack of space in hospital for the intermediate care team to work in, and a growing recognition of the contribution physical activity can make to a range of health conditions.
During the refurbishment of Conwy Leisure Centre, the health board’s Head of Therapy Services and Conwy County Borough Council’s Head of Active and Creative Lifestyles worked together to create space for the Intermediate Care Team in the centre. A dedicated area within the leisure centre gave the team more space and access to a range of fitness facilities. The team also saw potential for this arrangement to provide a model for health and social services initiatives in the future. The health precinct concept has created a place where health and social care professionals can work together to provide appropriate solutions for local people.
Health professionals working in the leisure centre have also benefited from the proximity to physical activity opportunities which have led to additional projects at the precinct including activities for people with diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. The precinct now includes more than 20 projects, has reduced facilities costs for the Intermediate Care Team and reduced waiting lists in physiotherapy.
The project overcame a series of challenges during its development. The project team found gaining support from finance teams at both organisations its most significant challenge. The structure of budgets at the council and the health board presented barriers to the project. The project team had to overcome initial concerns that the council was subsidising healthcare because the Intermediate Care Team paid a lower rate to hire leisure centre facilities. The project team emphasised to staff that the principles behind the precinct were based on the wider view that the council and health board share a common goal to improve the health of local residents.
There were also concerns from community councils about the impact on services at the leisure centre as a result of health professionals moving into the building. Officers dealt with these concerns by explaining the purpose and benefits of the project. Some physiotherapists were initially reluctant to refer patients to exercise professionals, but quickly developed strong working relationships after both sides started to understand the level of expertise on offer.
Negative perceptions from patients expecting to receive their treatment in hospital also had to be overcome, but patients adjusted to the new environment over time.
It took about 3 years for the precinct to overcome the initial concerns of the respective finance teams, and generating buy-in from those teams was a vital step in securing resources for the project. Strong leadership from officers with a good understan
The project is now firmly established and has won a number of awards. It will be expanded to two further sites in Llanrwst and Llandudno, and will form part of the long-term approach to reducing demand for unscheduled care in the area.
The health board has plans to expand the initiative throughout North Wales in the future.
Name: John Hardy
Organisation: Conwy County Borough Council