SHADOW Health Minister Andy Burnham saw first hand how a centre has helped transform the lives of a sickness-hit community.
The MP visited Healthworks in Paradise Lane, Easington Colliery, yesterday after health campaigners in County Durham flagged up its work.
The visit showed how organisations can come together to turn projects into a success, with its leaders hopeful the model could be adapted and rolled out nationally to help get to the root of issues which blight people’s lives.
It was launched in 2007 by County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust with the backing of Northumbrian Water and Durham County Council.
In addition to a GP surgery, it hosts activities including stop-smoking programmes, education classes, fitness sessions, advice drop-ins, after-stroke groups and food co-operatives, helping to tackle ill health and develop aspirations.
In the last year, thanks to the qualifications and support it offers, 24 people have got back into work.
During his tour of the centre, Mr Burnham met those who have turned around their health and prospects and heard the argument for similar schemes to be set up across County Durham and beyond should Labour return to lead the Government.
Fiona Maher, the centre’s co-ordinator, said: “The Healthworks’ model is one that can be easily rolled out, and that’s what we wish for ultimately.
“We’re not asking for investment. We’re hoping this can be an opportunity for others to be developed.”
Partnership chairman Graeme Grieg said: “Healthworks was planned, financed, and developed to meet the needs of local people, and focuses on bringing about step changes in health, encouraging local participation and removing barriers to access.”