Lincs Inspire’s Wellness Hub, the first site in the UK to be awarded Innerva Centre of Excellence, is improving the health and wellbeing of local people thanks to its productive partnerships with healthcare organisations. Health improvement co-ordinator, Ian Shorley-Harlow, explains how.
Exercise is medicine, which is why the fitness and leisure sector has strived to collaborate with healthcare for years. When it comes to working alongside GPs and other medical professionals to impact people’s physical, mental and social health, Lincs Inspire is one of the sector’s true success stories. The charitable trust supports clients living with a range of conditions from its Wellness Hub in Grimsby – one of the largest power-assisted exercise facilities in the UK.
Housed within Lincs Inspire’s Health & Wellbeing Centre, the Wellness Hub launched last year to meet growing demand for its services. The centre’s existing power-assisted exercise suite, equipped
by Innerva, had reached capacity and following an investment of £180,000 from Sport England, North East Lincolnshire Council and Lincs Inspire, the facility was significantly expanded.
An underused area, previously four squash courts on the ground floor of the building was
transformed into three studios housing Innerva’s equipment, including both seated and recumbent machines , along with a Lifestyle studio for low impact classes such as Tai Chi and chair-based classes.
“Our old studio was on the first floor so access was an issue for some clients and we were at the point of saturation. The Wellness Hub has transformed everything. We are more accessible, we have doubled the amount of equipment we offer and have pretty much doubled usage too,” says Ian Shorley-Harlow, health improvement co-ordinator at Lincs Inspire.
Productive and enduring partnerships with healthcare organisations are at the heart of Lincs Inspire’s success.
“We’ve worked hard to develop our partnerships over the last seven years. We engage with all local GPs and touch base with every organisation we can from mental health charities to groups for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s and diabetes. We also work with Humbercare and the local authority and have built a large portfolio of contacts,” says Ian.
Supervising staff are all trained to Level 3 and have completed a GP Referral course. To provide further assurance for medical professionals, Lincs Inspire also uses secure email services similar to those used within the NHS to ensure patient information can be sent and received confidentially.
“We’re always keen to get healthcare professionals to tour the Wellness Hub. Once they’ve been in, met the staff and seen the equipment and how it works, they’re generally happy to work with us. It makes such a difference when they see the facility for themselves.”
Supporting users with medical conditions
Thanks to the strength of its partnerships, Lincs Inspire is able to utilise the 22 pieces of specialist equipment from Innerva to support people with a range of long-term health conditions, from arthritis, cancer and Parkinson’s to fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis and long Covid.
One of its most popular programmes is Active Forever. The 12-week exercise referral scheme is designed to help patients take steps to change their lifestyles, which can lead to lower medication, less pain and an increased quality of life.
Referred by a health professional such as a GP, practice nurse, health trainer or physiotherapist, clients attend twice a week. On average, Lincs Inspire receives 60-70 referrals a month and this number is climbing steadily.
Good rapport is invaluable when working with clients, so a member of the team is always available to support them throughout their exercise journey, says Ian.
“We have an open arm policy to make sure everyone feels comfortable and welcome. Our studios are always staffed and right from the start clients are spoken to, liaised with and generally have good fun.”
Reviews at weeks four, eight and twelve – usually with the same member of staff – help to keep clients engaged and the majority of people convert to full Wellness Hub membership after completing the referral programme.
The Wellness Hub has approximately 650-700 members. Most users are in their 50s, but the equipment is helping members as young as 12 and as old as 94.
“All of our members benefit from the Wellness Hub either sociably, physically, mentally or
emotionally. This is why we work so hard to partner with healthcare organisations and medical professionals. It’s a long process, but we are constantly moving forwards and our members are reaping the benefits.”