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Archive for the ‘Health and Social Care’ Category

Caring Together for Tameside’s Mental Health

Wednesday, January 11th, 2017


Over the course of their lifetime one in four people will develop some kind of mental health issue. As things stand, few of them will go and see a doctor about it and even fewer will get the treatment they need. Levels of self-harm among young people have increased by more than 50% between 2010 and 2015. In 2015 alone there were over 6,000 deaths recorded as suicide. It’s estimated that mental health issues cost the country up to £15 billion a year in lost productivity.

I usually try to avoid so stark an opening in my blogs, but in this case I think the severity of the situation justifies it.

How on Earth did it come to this? The sad fact is that for many the stigma against being open and honest about mental health remains strong. Far too often people who (quite rightly) would go straight to the doctor if they broke their leg would never do the same thing if they felt depressed or anxious. At the same time the rapid changes in the society we live in, particularly globalisation and the rise of social media, have created stresses and strains on our mental health that governments and health services are only just beginning to understand. While progress is being made in both these areas, there’s still a way to go.

And as always when I talk about issues like this, we can’t ignore the impact of austerity. Although it can be definitely argued that mental health has been historically underfunded, the last half a decade of cuts have undermined improvements to mental health services at a time where it has never been so vital to make them. The Prime Minister may have announced this week that her government will make mental health a priority, but at the same time national newspapers were reporting that hospitals were using hundreds of millions of pounds earmarked for children’s mental health to plug gaping holes in their budget left by government cuts. I know I sound like a broken record when I say that actions speak louder than words, especially with this government, but one speech does not undo the damage that has been done.

All this means that we’ll need to take matters into our own hands if we want to see serious changes made in how we deal with mental health. Fortunately, our work on integrating health and social care allows us to do just that, bringing together hospitals, communities and employers to create well-rounded treatments for both mental and physical health, tailored to individuals and the local area. As a council, we’ve also made mental health a priority through pledges such as signing the “Time to Change” mental health pledge and supporting national events promoting good mental wellbeing. In 2017, wtimetochangejpge’re going to build on both of these, transforming the way we do health in Tameside and Greater Manchester.

In the 21st century, access to high-quality mental health services is not a nice-to-have. As people become more open about the mental health challenges that they face, it falls to us to make sure that the help they need is available whatever and whenever they need it. At both the local and national level, we must take a stand and say that these people will no longer fall between the cracks in our healthcare systems. The hard but necessary work starts here.

New Year’s Resolutions

Friday, January 6th, 2017

one-you-localised-postNew Year, new you, or so the saying goes. We’re now a few days in to 2017 and all but a very small number will likely have managed to stick to any New Year’s resolutions so far.

I’ve heard a few from friends and family about giving up particular foods, drinks and even social media. Though if, like millions of others, your resolution relates to improving your health and fitness then the Council, in partnership with Tameside and Glossop Clinical Commissioning Group and Public Health England, will be able to help.

Public Health England has launched a national campaign to mitigate the impact of modern life on the nation’s health. Research has found that the effects are particularly acute amongst the middle aged. 87% of men and 79% of women aged 40-60 are overweight or obese, exceed the Chief Medical Officer’s alcohol guidelines or are physically inactive. Obesity was found to be the biggest problem for this group with 77% of men and 63% of women overweight or obese, an increase of 16% in the past 20 years. `These problems, if not tackled, can lead to more serious illnesses, such as diabetes, later on. Since the mid-90s the number of middle aged people being diagnosed with this illness has doubled.

But help is at hand. The experts at Public Health England have devised a quiz that asks a few simple questions about diet and exercise and offers advice at the end based on your responses. There are also a range of smartphone and tablet apps available to help guide you. They’re all very easy to use and I can strongly recommend them.

Here at the Council we’re doing our bit too. This time last year I was writing about the £20 million investment in our leisure facilities that would see Tameside’s sports facilities drastically improved with new centres being opened and upgrades to existing ones. The first, which opened in Novemeber last year, was the conversion of the Active Longdendale gymnastics centre in to trampoline and soft play centre Total Adrenaline. This is a facility that will encourage young Tamesiders to get active from a very early age.

Total Adrenaline opened in November 2016

Total Adrenaline opened in November 2016

Later this month will see the opening of iTrain gym in Dukinfield. Making use of the old Dukinfield Baths, which had reached the end of its life, the gym will offer 24/7 access plus a crèche, café and meeting rooms for use by community groups. It will be a true community hub.

In the longer term Hyde leisure pool will be extended to house a regular swimming pool alongside the existing leisure pool, Ashton leisure centre will be refurbished or rebuilt and Denton will have a new state of the art ‘Wellness Centre’.

I have long believed that the success of a place is about more than just shiny new buildings or ‘physical regeneration’ to use the technical term. It’s about the health and wellbeing of the people who live there too. Our partnership with Tameside and Glossop CCG, Active Tameside and Public Health England and this investment demonstrates that, under my leadership, Tameside Council is committed to this agenda. As the year progresses many more plans and projects will come forward that will back this up and lays the foundations for the success of Tameside, as a place, long in to the future.

The social care precept is not the answer

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

careAt the start of the month I wrote on this blog expressing my shock and disappointment that Adult Social Care received no additional funding in the Autumn Statement. In the face of a funding crisis in one of our most vital services the government seems to have decided to bury its head in the sand. That’s despite Members of Parliament, local government officials and members of the medical profession, of every political colour, warning them of the catastrophic consequences of doing so.

Fortunately, it looks like the government have realised their mistake and are starting to say something on funding for adult social care. Unfortunately, it looks like all they have to say is offering “solutions” that have been tried and found wanting before.

Cast your mind back to around this time last year, when the then-Chancellor George Osborne announced that councils would be allowed to raise their council tax by up to 2% as a “social care precept”. The government have today announced that for the next two years Councils have the option of levying a larger 3% precept.

Putting side the creative bankruptcy of reheating a policy that was barely a year old to begin with, there more than a few reasons why imposing a greater burden on councils to fund adult social care didn’t work then and won’t work now.

The first is the simple fact that a 3% increase in council tax does not raise anywhere near the amount required to plug funding shortfalls. Last time round an overwhelming majority of local authorities took the maximum possible council tax precept, raising around £383 million nationwide. That sounds like a lot but it barely covered two thirds of the sector’s cost increases for the year. Even with the precept the total shortfall in adult social care funding for 2016-17 alone was estimated at £940 million. There is absolutely no reason to think that allowing councils to raise the precept further will improve this situation.

Neither does this take into account the fact that this additional funding was not distributed equally. The amount of money a local authority can raise from the social care precept is determined by their council tax base. For example, here in Tameside our social care precept raised around £1.4 million, but the same level of increase by Oxfordshire Council saw them bring in £5.9 million in additional funding. Local authorities with lower council tax bases are also likely to have a higher demand for social care services. The result is a system where the areas with the highest need receive the lowest funding. It would be hard to find a more unfair way of doing things.

I said last time I spoke about this that a government’s spending commitments are the best way to tell what their true priorities are. Anybody that wants to know if our social care services will be there for them, their parents or their grandparents should be deeply concerned at the fact that the government is passing the buck for funding to cash-strapped councils while they continue to pile billions into things like corporation tax cuts. The government may say that they want a country that works for everyone, but the ongoing social care debacle shows that they have a very odd way of going about it.

The importance of self care

Monday, October 31st, 2016


Looking back at my previous blogs it’s fair to say that my I often use it to promote healthier living in Tameside. This week I considered writing about another subject but the importance of the topic I wanted to discuss today was such that I couldn’t waste this opportunity to raise awareness of it.

I’m talking about the Tameside public health annual report which was published in late September. The report identifies the common health problems our residents experience and the best way for us to use our resources to tackle them and improve the quality of life for our residents. The report is unique in the way that it is the first to have been produced since the implementation of the devolution of health and social care services to Greater Manchester and the creation of Tameside and Glossop’s own integrated care organisation.

The report has a particular focus on self-care and is helpful in explaining in detail what that is. Self-care is not just putting a plaster on a cut or taking a paracetamol for a headache, it includes much of what people do on a day to day basis. For example, brushing your teeth, watching what you eat or taking exercise are all considered self-care since they are things that contribute to reducing the risks of developing more serious illnesses further down the line. The report emphasises the importance of taking care of yourself and identifies how easy it is to incorporate self-care activities in to your daily routine.

The benefits to this are twofold. Those who look after their health lead longer, happier lives and by reducing the risk of developing serious illnesses reduce the pressure on the NHS too. Who wouldn’t want to lead a long healthy life and avoid going in to hospital?

Here in Tameside we’re doing all we can to support people to take care of themselves. We’re running a range of initiatives from dementia friends to mental health awareness campaigns. We’re promoting smoking cessation clinics and programmes that help residents reduce their alcohol consumption. And of course, we’re also investing £20m in new and refurbished leisure facilities across the Borough that will make it easier for our residents to get active. Worryingly 33% of Tameside’s population take fewer than 30 minutes of exercise each week, significantly increasing their chances of strokes, heart attacks and type 2 diabetes. By increasing the physical activity rate of Tameside people by just 1% it is estimated that we would reduce the cost of dealing with the consequences of inactivity by £650,000 per year giving us thousands more to spend on other vital public services.

Of course there is always going to be a role for health professionals and medicine, but by choosing the most appropriate way of managing our own health we can ensure that the precious health service and council resources are deployed in the best way towards those with the greatest need.

The public health annual report can be read here.

Life on the Line in Greater Manchester

Friday, October 14th, 2016


Often on this blog I provide readers with a lot of numbers and statistics about issues affecting Tameside, ranging from local events to national stories and everything in between. While I find data valuable for explaining and justifying the council’s views and decisions, I do appreciate that if it is presented with no context or explanation it can make things hard to digest and follow. That’s why using statistics and numbers presented in a way that everybody can relate to can be such a powerful tool for explaining some of the big issues we face in Tameside.

The University of Manchester have recently provided an excellent example of just this with their research of life expectancy and healthy life expectancy in Greater Manchester. The research combines data from the Office of National Statistics and the Index of Deprivation to map life expectancy (how long you can expect to live) and healthy life expectency (how long you can expect to live without serious health problems) to the city’s Metrolink stops.

It is information we should be paying attention to. In the last two centuries we have seen a massive increase in life expectancy across England and Wales. If you were born in 1851 you could expect to live for only 41 years on average, but 150 or so years later that figure has almost doubled to 79.5 years for men and 82.3 years for women. Access to clean food and water, better medical care and a decline in child mortality have all contributed to this, but that doesn’t mean that we can sit on our laurels. There remain serious inequalities between economically deprived areas and more prosperous areas when it comes to life expectancy. Men and women in Manchester aged 65 today can expect live a further 15.9 years and 18.8 years respectively, but in some of the richer parts of London those numbers go up to 21.6 years for men (Kensington and Chelsea) and 24.6 years for women (Camden).

There are significant differences even within Greater Manchester as well. If you’re female and live near the Sale, Whitefield or Milnrow Metrolink stops your life expectancy can be as high as 82 years. That drops to 73 if you live near to the Clayton Hall stop. Men in Timperley and Whitefield have the longest life expectancies at 78 years, but that plummets to 66 years for men in Rochdale Town Centre barely 26 miles away (To put it into perspective, that’s a year for every 7 minutes of transport time). Even within Tameside there is a 4 year gap in life expectancy between men in Audenshaw (73) and Ashton Moss (69), although that gap shrinks to a year amongst women (79 in Audenshaw and 78 in Ashton-under-Lyne).

Last year Greater Manchester became the first region in England to be handed control of £6 billion of health and social care spending from central government. Using these new powers to address the health inequalities in our region must rank as one of our highest priorities. We’ve recently received £23.2 million in transformation funding for our Care Together programme, and we’ll be making use good of that money to supercharge our ambitions to bring healthy life expectancy in our area up to at least the English average. If we’re going to achieve this we need to look beyond just the provision of health services and sanitation (important as that is) and into how factors like people’s jobs, the environment which they live in and their social interaction (or lack of) can affect their health for good or ill. Doing this is a challenge that nobody has attempted to meet on this scale before. I firmly believe that we are blazing a path that the rest of the country will soon be following, but I also know that we have only taken the first few steps on what will be a very long journey. Let’s face the tasks and make the changes we need to together.

A Sporting Tameside is a Healthy Tameside

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

For the rest of this month the eyes of Europe will be turned to France as the festival of football that is the UEFA European Championship kicked off on Friday. While I’ll certainly be watching events in Marseilles, Lens and St-Etienne, I would be remiss if I didn’t use the opportunity to talk about what sports are available for people in Tameside as well.

I’ve said it before, but I think it bears repeating. If exercise was a pill it would be a miracle UEFA_Euro_2016.svgcure. Weight problems? Exercise helps it. High blood pressure? Exercise helps it. Feeling down and lethargic? Exercise helps it. Those, off the top of my head, are just three everyday health issues that be combated with exercise. The actual list is far, far longer. But exercise, and exercise through sport especially, is not just beneficial for physical fitness. Regular participation in sport can also build important life skills, such as working as a team, learning, having fun, showing commitment and building memories.

Despite this, people in Tameside are still not getting enough exercise. It’s estimated that 33% of Tameside residents take less than 30 minutes of physical activity per week. It’s in our interest and the interests of our residents to make sure that figure goes up. Increasing it by just 1% would generate annual savings of £650,000 a year for reinvestment in public services. Individuals taking regular physical exercise will also potentially see their risk of major illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and cancer reduce by up to a half, and their risk of early death reduced by almost a third.

This is why I’ve reconfirmed our commitment to make sure that exercise in Tameside is affordable and accessible to anyone that wants to take part in it. To achieve this we will need help from our partners, most notably Active Tameside and the various sports club across Tameside. It’s a challenge, but a challenge that we’re more than up for.

To give just one example, at the start of this month Mossley Juniors, a grassroots football club for youngsters aged 7 to 17, were the proud recipients of a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest honour any voluntary group in the UK can receive. It’s an award that’s more than deserved for the hard work that the club’s volunteers have put in over a period of 30 years, and I hope you’ll join me in offering them the warmest of congratulations.

So don’t wait until tomossleyjuniorsmorrow if you live in Tameside and want to get more active. The council’s website has a comprehensive list of directory of sports and activities available in the borough here, and Active Tameside’s website here tells you everything you need to know about the membership options and activities that they provide. I mean it when I say that I want healthy people in a healthy borough, and I will do everything in my power to turn that into a reality.

Dementia Awareness Week in Tameside

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016


Over the past few decades we have seen extraordinary developments in medicine and technology, allowing people to live longer and better lives than they could have hoped for at any other time in history. In the space of a century in Britain the average life expectancy at birth has gone from 47 to 79 for men and 50 to 83 for women.

I know of very few people who would argue that this is a bad thing, but as we all start living longer we have to face up to things that those who came before us would never have survived long enough to encounter. Of all of these, arguably none is more prevalent or feared as dementia.

The figures do not lie. In 2013 it was estimated that there were 815,827 living with dementia in the UK, 773,502 (94.8%) of who were aged 65 and over. If the prevalence of dementia rises the way it is expected to rise, this will increase to 1,142,677 by 2025 and 2,092,945 by 2051. That’s 156% more than are afflicted with dementia today. Already it is hard to find somebody who hasn’t experienced family or friends who are suffering or have suffered through dementia, and it looks like that’s the way things are going to stay for the future.

All of which makes it even more important than we all know the basic facts about the disease so we can identify its onset and find out how we can support and connect with those living with the condition. Key to this is making sure that people receive a quick and accurate diagnosis, as this is what unlocks the gateway to further support.

That’s why we’re supporting Dementia Awareness Week in Tameside. From 15th-22nd May there will be a variety of activities and events for those living with dementia, their families and/or carer, and those who simply want to know more about the disease.

As well as putting on a variety of fun and creative activities we will also be encouraging people to sign up to be dementia friends, helping them understand what it is like to live with the disease and learn the little things they can do to help. These dementia friend sessions can either be attended at one of several locations across Tameside. Go to https://www.dementiafriends.org.uk/register-digital-friend to register and find out more. A complete list of other Dementia Awareness Week activities in Tameside can be found at on our website at http://public.tameside.gov.uk/pressreleases/f1030pressreleasestory107.asp?story=1046&keyword=.

We fully intend to practice what we preach. Every elected member in Tameside will be attending a Dementia Friend session before Full Council next week. Together we can all help to make life as comfortable as possible for those living with the disease, and we can all start doing it right now. I’m completely behind Dementia Awareness Week, and I know the people of Tameside will be as well.

£20 Million of Investment in Leisure

Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Just before Christmas last year I announced that the council was launching a wide-ranging consultation on how we make the Tameside leisure estate sustainable and provide the people of Tameside with the facilities they deserve.  In light of the deteriorating state of our existing buildings and our ambitions to shape the health and life expectancy of our residents we felt that radical action was necessary to make sure that our leisure effort remained fit for purpose in the future.

We wanted and expected the people of Tameside to have their opinions on the matter, and the feedback you’ve given us has been invaluable in helping us to improve our plans. That’s why I can announce that we have now developed and agreed a £20 million programme of investment into local sports and leisure facilities. Whether you take part in sport on a serious basis or just want to be active so you can stay healthier for longer; you will soon be able to do so in some of the best facilities that Greater Manchester has to offer.

We know from the consultation that access to swimming facilities formed a large part of your concerns, so let me put any fears you may have to rest on that now. These proposals will create 2480 square metres of available pool space in Tameside – an increase of nearly 200 square metres on the current provision. This space will come from adding a swimming pool to the existing aqua-facilities at Active Hyde, and from our centrepiece facility, a new Wellness Centre for Tameside. Located in Denton, it will contain an eight-lane 25-metre competition standard swimming pool, learner pool, gym, sauna, soft-play area, tin-pin bowling facility, sensory suite and café.

But our plans go far beyond increasing our swimming pool space, and into other areas of health and fitness. Active Dukinfield will be converted into a sports village, including a gym and fitness suite, crèche, soft play facilities, and a café concession. After the Wellness Centre in Denton is completed, we will put together plans to refurbish or replace the pool at Active Ashton, guaranteeing that a swimming facility will remain in the town. We are also committed to the creation of a play centre at the old Active Longdendale site in Mottram.

We’ve been able to sign off on the cost of these programmes for two reasons. Firstly, we’ve taken lessons from the success of the Sky High Adventure Centre on how incorporating a commercial offer into our leisure and health facilities can attract private investment and reduce costs for the council and taxpayers. Secondly, physical inactivity in Tameside costs us at least £21.5 million per year in avoidable health, social care and economic productivity costs. Even a 1% increase in physical activity among our residents would generate annual savings of around £650,000. Getting Tameside active is as good for our finances as it is for our health.

I won’t apologise for investing in the well-being of our residents and our economy, and the proposals that you’ve helped us to create will allow us to do exactly that. To those who took part in the consultation, thank you once again. I look forward to working with you in the future to turn these proposals into a reality.

The Great Public Health Carve-Up (Part 3)

Thursday, February 18th, 2016


When people think of health services in this country they usually think of the NHS, but local government also has a significant role in keeping the citizens of the UK healthy. Local authorities such as the one I lead have a legal responsibility for a whole range of public health services, covering areas like sexual health, drug and alcohol misuse, stopping smoking and preventing obesity.

While these programs may go unnoticed by many people, they are absolutely vital to the health of our population and keeping the NHS running smoothly. Early intervention and prevention is always better than cure. Every person that can lose weight or beat addictions on a public health program is a person that won’t be costing the NHS far more time and money further down the line. It has been estimated that every £1 spent on prevention ended up saving £23 in health benefits.

But investment in public health isn’t just about saving money. It’s about helping our residents live longer and better lives as well. Through early intervention and prevention people can be supported to make healthier lifestyle choices that will ultimately help them to stay fit and healthy for as long as possible. When you combine them all: the smoker who died of lung cancer, to the heart-attack victim that never took any exercise, to the alcoholic whose liver finally gave out, we can drastically improve the quality of life of our residents while significantly reducing the demand for expensive health and social care services.

It’s in everybody’s interest to ensure that that opportunities to improve and sustain the health of our residents are as effective and well-funded as they can possibly be. Unfortunately, as I’ve written in the past, they’re currently suffering an all-out assault from government cuts. We had a £200 million cut last summer, which knocked £1 million off Tameside’s public health funding. Then, six months later, the government launched a consultation for a further cut on top of that £200 million.

Now the results of that have come in, and they aren’t pretty. We’re set to lose a further £363,000, which when combined with an increasing and aging population means a reduction on public health spending per head from £72 to £70. In Tameside, the average healthy life expectancy (How many years’ people can expect to live in a “healthy state”) is 57. Already there is a gap of 20 years in healthy life expectancy between the most affluent and most disadvantaged areas in the country.

This is unfair and unacceptable. It is absolute madness that councils across the country are now being forced to make savings now when we all know that those “savings” will be lost multiple times over by increased costs due to poor health outcomes and lives lost early. Once again, this government has proven that it knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.



Giving our Children the Best Start

Monday, February 15th, 2016

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It’s often said that life is more complicated now than it ever was in the past. When it comes to bringing up your children, hardly the easiest thing at the best of times, this is absolutely true. When I was young the picture seemed to be simple; the mother stayed at home and looked after the house and family, while the father went off to work.

Obviously, that was not the case for every family, but there is a grain of truth in it. Two-thirds of working-age women in the UK now work compared to less than half in 1952. Far from being the secretaries and sewing girls of yesteryear, women now occupy some of the highest levels of their professions in both the public and private sectors. This is something that should be applauded, but as a country our childcare services have not yet caught up with this new reality. Increased population movements, both within the UK and from immigration, also mean that often the family networks that used to be able to help fill in the gaps are now no longer able to.

Research has shown that around two thirds of working women say that the cost of childcare has been an obstacle to them working more. Too many women still face having to choose between their careers or their children. It’s not good for them and it’s not good for our economy.

But childcare doesn’t just benefit parents. There is an ever-growing body of evidence that suggests that children who receive good quality childcare in the early years do better when entering school and later in life. This can be down to learning, socialising and developing their own identity through play-based activities and interacting with other children their age. For children from disadvantaged backgrounds, that’s the kind of leg-up that can make all the difference.

That’s why government legislation means that parents with children between the ages of 3-4 can access up to 570 hours of free TMBC-NURSERYearly education or childcare per year (which usually breaks down into 15 hours each week for 38 weeks of the year) from a range of childcare providers across Tameside. For those parents who meet certain eligibility criteria this free childcare applies to children aged 2 as well. To check what you’re entitled for and how to apply, visit the page on the council’s website here.

As much as I approve of these measures, I would like to see them go much, much further. For starters, I would like to know how
much investment the government will put into place to make sure that their commitment to 30 hours of free childcare is adequately funded. I also want to see how the government proposes to improve the quality of childcare available while at the same time their cuts are ravaging Sure Start centres across the country. Raising our children is one of the most important tasks we undertake, and they deserve every chance we can give them to have a fair shot in life.

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