NHS 'Health Campuses' Unite Spas And Surgeries In New Approach To Healthcare

'A new preventative frontline for the NHS.'

The NHS plans to open health campuses and hubs on the same sites as hospitals and doctor’s practices, in a bid to slash rates of illness in a new approach to healthcare in the UK.

The campuses, which are part of the Healthy New Towns programme, will see GP surgeries sit alongside fitness studios and spas.

While it was recently reported that services like facials and fitness classes would be funded by the NHS, a spokesperson confirmed this is not the case.

Stuart Gannon, from the NHS, told HuffPost UK: “The idea is one of convenience, so you could go for your hospital or GP appointment on the NHS and then, should you choose to pay for a fitness class or facial, you can do so.”

BraunS via Getty Images

The full cost of the health campuses has not been disclosed, however Daniel McDonnell, who works on the Healthy New Towns programme, revealed to HuffPost UK that the NHS will be paying for programme management funding (such as staff resource, clinical time, partial or full post funding) but it won’t be paying for buildings or services.

“Only NHS services are funded by the NHS,” he said. “Partnerships do not change the statutory responsibilities of NHS commissioners and providers, but open opportunities for better collaboration between NHS organisations, local government, developers, businesses and residents to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.

“For the Healthy New Towns programme, sites have received some capacity and resource funding to develop and implement their delivery plans.”

The core aim of building ‘health campuses and hubs’ on the same sites as hospitals and GP practices is to make fitness and wellness easier to prioritise - something which modern, busy lifestyles don’t often allow for.

“The difference is that instead of having to make a separate journey elsewhere, which may put you off, the gym or spa would be on the same complex and this convenience would make it easier for people to do,” Stuart Gannon told HuffPost UK.

Of the 10 Healthy New Towns, six will pilot the health campus scheme, with some beginning work as early as 2019. These sites include: Whyndyke Farm, Fylde; Whitehill and Bordon, East Hampshire; Cranbrook, Devon; Halton Lea, Runcorn; Darlington, County Durham; and Northstowe, Cambridgeshire.

It is hoped the Healthy New Towns plan will completely shift the model of healthcare here in the UK, by focusing more on building a community of wellness.

Each town will comprise a new housing development, built with healthy living in mind - some areas might have fast-food-free zones around schools and healthy-eating focused town centres, while others will provide virtual access to GP services and dementia-friendly care homes.

Daniel McDonnell told HuffPost UK: “We need to prevent ill-health and deliver new models of care. The ideas around health hubs and campuses can achieve both of these aims.”

Preventing ill health is crucial to easing the financial burden of illnesses such as obesity. According to Public Health England, the annual costs associated with the illness to the wider economy, NHS and social care systems are estimated to be £27 billion, £6.1 billion a year and £352 million respectively.

Furthermore, obese adults are more than five times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes treatment currently costs the NHS £9.8 billion a year, which represents around 10% of the annual NHS budget.

“We can create a new preventative frontline for the NHS that will free up hospital beds and reinvigorate the health of communities."”

The pilot scheme has been praised for putting the fun back into health and wellness by PHE’s chief executive Duncan Selbie.

“I think this is exactly what we should be doing,” he said. “The NHS is the most powerful brand that we’ve got, but the focus has always been on illness and not health. Encouraging people to make changes to their lifestyle is by far the most sustainable way of achieving change and saving money in the long run.”

He continued: “Three years ago we said we’ve got to approach things quite differently – to make a positive difference. This is the smartest move we could make. This is part of the healthy towns initiative and it’s also part of a wider drive towards helping people keep well. It is also about fun and enjoyment – that is a huge part of keeping people well.

“We need to move away from finger-pointing and blaming people for their lifestyles and instead to focus on what it takes to keep people in good spirits.”

Steven Ward, CEO of ukactive, a not-for-profit body committed to getting people active, said the pilot offers “a more joined-up approach to healthcare is urgently needed to unburden the NHS”.

He told HuffPost UK: “Social prescribing from trusted GPs can incentivise people to be more active and empower them to take greater responsibility for their own health.

“By directing at-risk patients to wellness hubs that integrate leisure and medical services, we can create a new preventative frontline for the NHS that will free up hospital beds and reinvigorate the health of communities.”