Posted on 18/09/2017 by
Spa treatments could encourage better lifestyles, NHS chiefs said
Hospitals should build spas and offer facials and Zumba classes to encourage healthy lifestyles, say NHS chiefs.
Officials have drawn up plans for “health campuses” which would see swimming pools, beauty treatments and aerobics offered alongside hip replacements.
Health officials said the centres would encourage people to take more care of themselves - instead of treating healthcare as a "sickness service."
But critics said the ideas were a “farcial” waste of money at a time when the NHS is under severe financial pressure.
Duncan Selbie, chief executive of Public Health England, said the plans were “the big step forward” for health service, calling on all areas to follow suit.
“I think this is exactly what we should be doing. The NHS is the most powerful brand that we have got, but the focus has always been on illness not health,” he said. “Encouraging people to make changes to their lifestyles is by far the most sustainable way of achieving change and saving money in the long run.”
The proposals are part of schemes being drawn up by 10 "healthy towns" across the NHS, with other areas planning shopping discounts to reward physical activity, as well as free bikes to encourage it.
Ministers are understood to be in talks about an expansion of health campuses across the rest of the country.
Plans drawn up by the NHS in Warrington would see a "wellness centre" opening alongside traditional health services offering surgery and diagnostic tests.
Mel Pickup, chief executive of Warrington and Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said she hoped the ambitious proposals could be realised within five years.
"It could be about having a facial in the spa, or going to a Zumba class alongside MRI scans and hip replacements," she said. "It is redefining what a hospital does; not just being a sickness service but encouraging better lifestyles," she said.
The new “health campuses” are designed to bring treatment services together with efforts to prevent ill-health, she said.
"It is about creating a wellness centre within a medical plaza where you can see a GP - a shared facility for acute care and for the community to socialise, to exercise and to swim," she said.
Authorities have already replaced the local leisure centre with a health “hub” bringing together a swimming pool, dance studios and skateboard park with three GP surgeries and a cafe.
In Sandwell, West Midlands, a “lifestyle centre” has been built, with funding from the NHS and local authority, offering a climbing wall, hydrotherapy pool, sensory garden, and dance studio.
Mr Selbie said the NHS was “throwing its weight” behind the plans for health campuses and wanted to see their widespread adoption.
“Three years ago we said we’ve got to approach things quite differently - to make a positive difference. This is the smartest move we could make,” he continued.
“This is part of the healthy towns initiative and its also part of a wider wider drive towards helping people to keep well.”
Exercise classes and pampering treatments could encourage people to take care of their own health, he suggested.
“It is also about using fun and enjoyment - that is a huge part of keeping people well. We need to move away from finger-pointing and blaming people for their lifestyles and instead to focus on what it takes to keep people in good spirits,” he said.
Expenditure could be justified because getting people active and reducing anxiety could save the NHS billions in the long-run, he said.
Steven Ward, chief executive of UK Active, welcomed the idea of a “bolder, more holistic approach” to health.
“This means radical ideas like GP prescriptions for Zumba classes and spa therapies, to transform the NHS from an illness service to a wellness service,” he said.
But the Institute of Economic Affairs said the ideas were ludicrous, given the NHS’ financial pressures.
Mark Littlewood, director general, said: “To think that NHS chiefs, in all seriousness, are suggesting that the NHS should be providing facials to coax grown adults to lead healthy lifestyles is farcical.
“How facials - typically associated with luxury and not medical necessity – can legitimately be supplied at the expense of the taxpayer, is an insult to those who have been denied vital treatments by the NHS for illnesses such as cancer.”