A GP from Uttoxeter is spearheading a major new project to support health, wellbeing, community spirit and friendship in the town. The project is the first of its kind in Staffordshire and will serve as a pilot for strengthening communities across the county.
Dr David Atherton, based at Balance Street Practice, is working with a host of organisations in the town and across the county, to create a revolutionary blueprint which aims to encourage people to improve their lives, relationships and wellbeing by contributing to their local community.
Eventually, the project will see the creation of a ‘hub’ consisting of volunteers and ‘community connectors’ who will help people make new social connections and access support and voluntary services.
The Compassionate Community project will also see the launch of a Joy app, which will use technology to help people find out about social groups, community organisations and volunteer opportunities locally.
And a ‘community champion’ role for the town is also in the pipeline.
The NHS, Patient Participation Groups, Staffordshire County Council, Burton Albion Community Trust, Staffordshire Community Foundation, Support Staffordshire, Uttoxeter Heath Community Centre, Uttoxeter’s Random Acts of Kindness Group, Uttoxeter Cares and St Giles Hospice are among the key organisations already involved in the new drive.
Compassionate Communities is an established programme elsewhere in the UK, which centres on acting with kindness and compassion having a profound effect on everyone’s health and wellbeing.
The aim is to build strong social networks and community engagement, so that people are supported in their health and wellbeing, and can build – or already have – supportive relationships in place to help deal with serious illness, ageing, caregiving and loss.
Compassionate Communities provide expertise in working with naturally occurring networks to build and run a civic programme which brings those together and helps identify unmet needs.
Dr Atherton said: “We’re in a difficult place coming out of the pandemic. Some of us have maybe given up a bit and some people are feeling very isolated.
“What I’ve found through different situations is that there are a lot of fantastic organisations and groups working in the town, but they don’t all connect to anything else.
“We’re putting together an application for Compassionate Communities UK Charter Award – we’re most of the way there with that and through that we’ve found a lot of examples where our community has been brilliant.
“What I’m looking to do from an NHS point of view is open the doors to those wonderful people doing amazing things in the community and voluntary sector.
“It’s a form of social prescribing, which is one of the aims in the NHS long-term plan, flipping round from ‘I need help’ to ‘how can you help?’
“People who are actively helping in their community can find meaning, purpose and enjoyment – more so than being a ‘consumer’ of a service.”
As well as working towards Compassionate Communities status, the project will map out the social, community and voluntary groups across the town, forging new connections that will make it much easier for people to find out how to join in and understand what different groups have to offer.
Dr Atherton added: “There are two things I’d say to people – do you want to be part of a compassionate community? And is there anything that you can do to help?”
As the Echo went to press last night (Tuesday), Dr Atherton was due to give a presentation to Uttoxeter Town Council about the project.
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