Should we have more outdoor gyms in Hammersmith and Fulham?

While canvassing yesterday one local resident asked me about providing more outdoor gyms in Hammersmith and Fulham.

Hillingdon Council are keen on them – so far they have got 18 in different parks around their borough.

The equipment they have includes:

  • Crunch station
  • Cross Trainer
  • Air skier
  • Push up/dip station
  • Seated Row
  • Pull up bars
  • Leg Press
  • Seated chest press
  • Hip Twister
  • Big shoulder wheels

To be honest I have no idea what most of those things are. However it is surely a good idea to encourage people to keep fit – including those who can’t afford a huge sub for gym membership.

There would be a cost involved – although as I have noted before the Council’s £22.7 million public health budget is largely wasted at present on bureaucracy and ineffective gimmicks.

I suppose the other problem is space – perhaps Hillingdon has more room than we do.

What do you think?

Anyway I have asked the Council’s Parks Manager for his comments.

H&F Council spent £777,000 on “Personal Health Plans” – one person gave up smoking, 15 drank less, six lost weight

I have written before about my concerns that the £22.7 million spent by Hammersmith and Fulham Council on public health fails to achieve value for money. When I asked for a budget breakdown it included the following item – costing £777,000 a year:

“Delivery of personal health plans – individual goal oriented planning and support for 1,560 people a year and 1,800 community health checks delivered each year; the service helps people to lose weight, become more active, reduce alcohol use, stop smoking and eat more healthily, and is focused on areas of deprivation.”

That’s pretty expensive. Just under £500 a head. But to get an idea of whether it was good value for money I asked a further query:

“How many of the 1,560 people that we have funded personal health plans have drunk less, lost weight or given up smoking as a result?”

The results:

15 people reported reduced alcohol consumption.

1 person gave up smoking completely.

6 people reported reduced weight.

Of course there will be other health targets. But these are pretty obvious ones and the figures are derisory. It works out at £37,000 a time for each of those 21 achievements. Furthermore how many of those outcomes would have happened anyway regardless of signing up to the personal health plan?

This is the context in which the Council claims there is no money available from the Public Health budget to promote shingles vaccine. Or restore drinking fountains. Or provide dust suppressant spray on the roads to reduce air pollution. Or provide hypnosis for pregnant women to give up smoking or residential rehab for drug addicts. Or provide blood pressure tests for middle aged men. Or peer support for mental illness.

Or really just about anything at all that might be of greater real, practical value than the £777,000 for the Personal Health Plans. It would be quite a challenge to think up a less effective way of spending the money.

H&F Council is failing to protect elderly residents from shingles

shingles250,000 people a year in the UK suffer from shingles. It is a very unpleasant illness. Victims can die from it, although that is rare – about one in a thousand cases.  But what is commonplace – approximately 100,000 cases a year – is to develop “postherpetic pain” when the virus damages a nerve. The pain is typically excruciating. 20 per cent of shingles patients remain in pain after three months. For those admitted to hospital the average stay is 14.6 days. More often the infection means the elderly can stay at home but are unable to look after themselves.

The good news is that there is a shingles vaccine (called Zostavax) that is available. There is a phased introduction. It is currently available free on the NHS for those who were 70, 71, 72, 78 or 79 years old on the 1st September, 2015. If you are eligible – or you know someone who is – it is something to be contact your GP about.

Apparently it costs the NHS around £55 a shot – which is rather high for a vaccine. But not only will it avoid a lot of misery, it is also good value for the taxpayer.

The bad news is that the take up in Hammersmith and Fulham is less than half the national average. Between September 2014 and May 2015 it was 27.7% in Hammersmith and Fulham for the routine vaccination at age 70 years. The uptake for England was 52.8%. For 78-year-olds it was 25.5% against 53.8% nationally, 21.0% against 52.5% nationally.

These figures are a disaster. The statistics represent a terrible human toll. There will be vastly more misery for the old people of our borough from this disease than for the country as a whole. This is avoidable.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council is doing nothing about it. The Public Health Department tells me:

“The shingles vaccination programme is commissioned by NHS England (NHSE), who is responsible for the commissioning of local provision of immunisation services and the implementation of programmes through general practice and other providers. As this is not a local authority responsibility no financial contribution has been allocated from the H&F public health budget specifically to increase the shingles vaccination uptake rate.”

Remember the Council spends £22.7 million a year on Public Health – most of this spending is currently wasted. Also consider that this is a Council that spends £88 million a year on adult social care – including providing carers for those residents unable to look after themselves due to shingles. So the Council’s indifference is not only callous but financially inept.

Other councils have been active on this – which may partly explain the higher vaccination rates.

The Council should use Public Health funds to write to all qualifying residents to urge them to take the jab. They should back this up with visits. It should be made as easy as possible – for instance offering the vaccination on site in sheltered housing accommodation and indeed in residents’ private homes. What about also paying for the vaccine itself for borough residents aged 73-77?

Cllr Lukey: Indefensible

Cllr Lukey: Indefensible

According to the last census the borough population is 183,000 with around 3% of us aged 70-79.  So perhaps 5,000, and perhaps 2,000 aged 73-77.  Of course not all of them will take the jab – it is a matter of personal choice after all. But supposing half of them did at a cost to the Council of £50 a time and thus a total bill of £50,000. I suspect that would be money rather better spent that most of current £22.7 million current Public Health budget – with teams of people writing reports for other people to file.

I have written to Cllr Vivienne Lukey, the Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, asking for the policy to change. She has a wide remit and I actually think it is understandable if she was not aware of the current policy on shingles vaccination. But I do hope that having been made aware of the policy she will not seek to defend what seems to me to be indefensible.