Improving the health of local travel

One of our most recent meetings was with members of the team at Oakley Health Group down at Yateley Medical Centre, as we were interested to look at the vital role their three sites have across Yateley, Darby Green and Frogmore, and any relationship with issues to do with ‘getting around’ the area.  A big ‘thank you’ to Jennifer Taylor (the Business Manager) and Karen Toms (the Patient Services Manager), and John from the paramedic team who met with us to discuss a broad range of issues.

A winter morning, entering Yateley Medical Centre from Oaklands..

We’d always thought that there may be some issues to do with local patients being able to get to appointments as conveniently, now that they may have them available at any of the three sites (Hartley Corner, Monteagle, and Yateley) across a wider area.  We know there are also some issues with parking, particularly at Yateley Medical Centre, and Hartley Corner, although there are plans in place which may ease some of this at Yateley. 

However, it was interesting to discover that one of the reasons that Oakley Health has been one of the pioneers in primary care across the UK in integrating services is to make available locally services that you once would have had to travel further afield for (such as Aldershot, Fleet, Farnham, Guildford or Frimley Park) – and that this was as a direct result of patient feedback.

BBC Radio 5 Live’s Chris Warburton interviews Dr Karl Bennett during the recent outside broadcast from Yateley Medical Centre, highlighting the innovation there. With thank to @CallumAM

This includes things like diabetic eye screening, mental health services, family planning, orthopaedic practitioners, podiatry, and speech therapy, plus an urgent care centre (a dedicated place for urgent same day medical appointments, reducing the need to travel to A&E at Frimley), and an integrated care team of particular assistance to those with the most complex or chronic needs, which includes a clinical pharmacist, paramedics, social workers, specialist nurses, counsellors, therapists and social prescribers.

Dr Karl Bennett’s interview with BBC Radio 5 Live continues at Yateley Medical Centre – thanks to @NEHFCCG

We discussed how one of the biggest issues on the public health agenda right now is loneliness, and how the latest research claims that it can have a greater negative impact on our health than smoking!  Transport, and our ability to get around and meet other people obviously has a huge impact on this.

One of the other specific issues we were able to discuss were the increasing demands already being put on the local paramedic team.  They are often being called upon to ‘ferry’ local patients with complex needs to medical appointments.  They may lack the mobility to be able use existing public transport, or the services simply don’t serve the destinations they need to reach (such as at Fleet).  If the paramedics didn’t assist, they would miss the appointment, their health would deteriorate, and the paramedics would no doubt be called out for a greater emergency when they fall ill!

Such requests supplement the brilliant work of the volunteers at Yateley Neighbourcare, but it is clear, as with other public services (such as the number of times we are all more regularly hearing the police helicopter ‘going up’ to look for missing persons), the stretch on regular services – and the voluntary organisations designed to support them, is increasing drastically.  Threats to funding for community transport services, such as Yelabus are growing too. With much public transport capacity being ‘nibbled away’ at the edges, many individual organisations are being forced to invest in their own minibus provision, piecemeal across the community. Does this lead to duplication and fragmentation?  It would be good to reflect on what a Neighbourhood Plan could do, if anything, to maximise the impact of such provision.

Something that we are definitely picking up on about ‘getting around’ is that there is an issue with regard to the ability of those with complex needs, to be able to have a cheap, convenient, reliable way of being able to get places, in particular without that having to be booked way in advance.  It may be that there are no ‘easy solutions’, and that we are just picking up early on a trend – but it is clear that there is little capacity left in whatever system there is.  Perhaps a start would be for everyone to be more aware of just what provision is out there to begin with?

The Hartley Corner Surgery, on Frogmore Road – with thanks to Google Street View.

In other posts we’ve identified how, amongst the general public, it is actually government policy to make walking and cycling our default mode of transport for shorter journeys. This surprised us when we first started working on the plan. It is clear that, where we are all more able to do journeys on foot, or on a bike it would help make us healthier. 

In a Yateley, Darby Green and Frogmore context, it would also help with some of the congestion and parking issues where they exist – so whatever a future neighbourhood plan can do to help encourage more of this must surely be a priority?  In much of the central areas of Yateley where there are parking issues, much of the space was designed at at time when the population may have been a quarter of what the size is today, and vehicle use much lower – and expanding parking provision is probably not an easy option. 

The Monteagle Surgery, on Tesimond Drive. With thanks to Google Street View.

The key to addressing many of these issues may be looking at them from a health perspective, and making it easier for more of us to walk or cycle where we can, and improving the range of public transport options too.  But what would that mean?

We continue our deliberations…… but a big thank you to the staff of Oakley Health for the time they made available. More on their recent appearance on BBC Radio 5 Live from the local North East Hampshire and Farnham Clinical Commissioning Group website.