Sheila* attended a recent wellbeing event on the Roundshaw Estate, Wallington, Sutton: “I have lived on the Roundshaw for many years and have never seen anything like this before,” she said. “There was loads of information right on my doorstep – everyone was lovely and I felt very supported.”
First built more than half a century ago, the Roundshaw is a close-knit community that sometimes feels cut off from elsewhere in the borough. Generations of families have grown up on the estate – people look out for each other, but it has its share of issues that affect wellbeing: cost of living pressures, struggles faced by young parents, mental ill health and drug and alcohol problems, among them.
In the past, not everyone wanted to engage with health and care organisations – by registering with a GP, attending screening appointments or having vaccinations, for example. However, all that has been changing thanks to efforts to co-design services in a way that puts residents their heart.
As part of Sutton’s innovative integrated neighbourhood teams, people from the Roundshaw now sit alongside GPs, councillors and voluntary sector chairs on the groups which plan for future needs.
We need to take people with us, allow them to actually make the decisions.”
The charity Wallington Community Wellbeing has been operating in the area for nine years and is a big part of the integrated neighbourhood team. Originally formed to tackle isolation in older people, Wallington Community Wellbeing has grown to offer support to a wider group including families and people on low incomes. It was a particular source of strength during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to Christine Lindsay of the charity, people have embraced the idea of co-production: “Our charity has always tried to find out what people want when it comes to health. There’s no point in imposing things on them – because the NHS has done that for too many years. We need to take people with us, allow them to actually make the decisions.”
A good example is an event on 20 September that brought together almost 40 NHS and wellbeing organisations, offering everything from diabetes checks and vaccinations to advice on weight loss, fitness and befriending.
Says Christine: “There’s the feeling of a social movement, of something happening. People are in at the planning of these events. They feel empowered, so they actively share information with their networks, which is crucial to their success.”
Residents were very clear about what they wanted from the day – information about eating well on a budget, financial support and help with mental health issues, and exhibitors were chosen to fit that brief.
I was given time to chat over things with various professionals and it was so relaxed and convenient being on my doorstep.”
Sutton’s mayor and MP came along, as did lead GP Dr Raza Toosy. According to Christine, people appreciated this – that local leaders had made time to come to the Roundshaw and talk to them.
According to Alex*, a resident who attended: “I don’t get to see my doctor much so having the NHS here was a bonus. I was given time to chat over things with various professionals and it was so relaxed and convenient being on my doorstep.”
GP practices are changing, with a bigger emphasis on services such as the social prescribing and wellbeing coaching that address issues at the root of ill health. The day gave people the chance to get a better understanding of these services and the support that’s available.
People need to know that this is a true partnership, that we’re here for the long term not flitting in and out.”
Health and voluntary sector professionals also made the connections that help them signpost people to the best care. And it was a chance for residents to find out more about the range of new health and care jobs, with a view to joining the workforce themselves, bringing their unique local knowledge.
For Christine, such events are part of a long-term commitment to the estate: “We haven’t just gone into Roundshaw and had a nice day. We have said we will be back – we will carry on working with you and you will carry on joining our meetings. People need to know that this is a true partnership, that we’re here for the long term not flitting in and out.”
* Not their real names.