Charlton Athletic’s Extra Time Hub has been praised for its community work and health-focus during a recent visit from government and NHS officials.
The programme, run by Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT), aims at tackling issues such health, fitness and social isolation in people over the age of 55 through a range of activities and weekly contact sessions.
And as part of the launch of the National Academy of Social Prescribing, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health Jo Churchill and guests from the Department of Health and NHS England were invited to The Valley to see the club’s community work in action.
During the visit, the group also took a tour of CACT’s Health Improvement department, including a visit to CACT’s Call Centre, The Live Well Line, an integral part of its social prescribing work.
Here, CACT team members use a combination of online, telephone and face-to-face support to identify issues and empower people by linking them to a range of community assets delivered by the Borough’s voluntary community sector organisations.
Social Prescribing enables GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer their patients to a range of local services.
CACT’s scheme is known as Live Well Greenwich and focuses on adults throughout the Royal Borough of Greenwich who have visited their doctor on 12 or more occasions throughout the previous year.
Live Well Coaches offer up to six 45-minute-face-to-face sessions within a community setting with a trained and experienced local person who is knowledgeable about local services and is commissioned by the Royal Borough of Greenwich and the Department of Health & Social Care.
On the visit, Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds, said: “I’ve just had a brilliant morning talking to Pat (Webster, Extra Time participant) and other people who really are part of what social prescribing is about.
“Here the community trust reaches out into the community and they have a number of fabulous programmes.
“We’ve seen people do exercise classes, we’ve seen them doing choirs – there is a fabulous story about somebody who had COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and, when they went for their check-up, their lung capacity had really improved.
“The only difference in their life was that she was part of the choir which shows how we can begin to change people’s lives.
“But, it’s much broader than that – it’s about reaching out to you at the time you feel happy to engage with social prescribing.”
James Sanderson, Director of Personalised Care at NHS England, added: “What we find is that at least one in five GP appointments are taken up by somebody that hasn’t got a medical need.
“They may have an issue with loneliness, or they may be socially isolated, or they’ve got a housing issue, or relationship issue, and consequently we need to respond to that.
“We need to enable people to connect with communities, to connect to physical exercise, to connect to the natural environment; and what we find is a growing evidence base of the impact of arts and community sports-based activities in developing health and wellbeing.
“Programmes like CACT’s are fantastic at bringing together communities in a space that they recognise with that anchor institution that the football club brings to actually develop their health and wellbeing.”
CACT’s Extra Time Hub sessions are held at The Valley’s Millennium Suite every Wednesday morning (10am-12pm) and members pay just £3 a session or £10 a month to attend.
For more information on the initiative, visit the Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT) website.