Councils work together to improve residents’ health

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Image: Pixabay/WOKANDAPIX
Image: Pixabay/WOKANDAPIX

Bedford Borough Council is working with other councils to make it easier for residents to get help to improve their health, a meeting heard.

A report presented to the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (Monday, 3 June) said one in three deaths are linked to behavioural risk factors such as smoking, alcohol, physical inactivity, and poor diet.

Martin Westerby, head of public health programmes at Central Bedfordshire Council, said: “Smoking, obesity – being overweight, inactivity and alcohol misuse continue to be the four biggest causes of premature mortality, as well as contributing significantly towards the inequalities that we see in health and increasing that demand for health and social care.

“We know that if you experience one of those issues you’re likely to experience more than one.

“However, if you want to access [support] services you very often have to assess services independently,” he said.

The committee heard that Public Health is developing an Integrated Behaviour Change Service (IBCS) across Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes.

Clapham Cars

These are the local authorities covered by the Public Health Shared Service.

Mr Westerby said bringing all the support services into an integrated point of contact will make it easier to get the support needed.

“Initially we’re looking to create stop smoking services, weight management (or healthy weight services as we’re going to be calling them), [and] some NHS health checks, because we also want NHS health checks to be part of this service.

“We want [it] to be a flexible offer,” he said.

All of these support services are currently delivered or commissioned by Public Health.

The committee was told that the preferred route is to start with the existing public health behaviour change services and consider whether further integration is possible at a later stage.

“The delivery model that we want to bring about is going to have a single point of contact, initially via a website,” Mr Westerby said.

“However we appreciate that not everybody is digitally savvy or digitally able, so we’re going to have telephone support for those people who may not be able to access digitally.

“We’re going to have numerous robust pathways from Primary Care and a range of other services into the service. And we’re going to identify the needs of residents early on so we can get them the right level of support.

“That will include high level and density support for people with greater needs and those most likely to experience poorer health outcomes.”

The work to provide the IBCS is being led by Central Bedfordshire Council, and it is anticipated that the service will go live in April 2025.

Mr Westerby said: “The service is going to be accessible to all and to be targeted to those who need it most. Those who experience the worst health outcomes, and are more likely to be those who are experiencing health inequalities.”

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter