NHS director visited East Lancashire and Blackburn with Darwen communities to discuss health inequality issuesDate posted: 30th November 2023
Professor Bola Owolabi met with health colleagues and charities in the region last week to see how the national Core20PLUS5 strategy is being implemented in a bid to reduce health inequalities.
The first stop on the visit was New Neighbours Together at St John’s Church Hall in Burnley, where regular drop-in sessions take place for refugees and asylum seekers. Here, they receive food and clothing and access English lessons and other forms of support including an enhanced health check service from Burnley East Primary Care Network (PCN) and the social prescribing team from Burnley, Pendle and Rossendale CVS.
Around 6,000 refugees, migrants and asylum seekers have arrived in Lancashire over the past eight years, of which around 600 have arrived in Burnley. Prof. Owolabi met with the New Neighbours Together team that supports on average 150 clients every week, as well as some of those that have used the service for health checks in the past.
Her visit also took in Little Harwood Family Hub, where she met with local system leaders to discuss the challenges faced in the local area.
The visit included meeting with a group of local parents to discuss their interest in influencing changes to local services. The session, which Prof. Owolabi was invited to attend and chair a section of, was part of a pre-arranged and joint ongoing engagement programme between the ICB and the local authority to actively listen to parents and carers, and seeks to make changes to improve their experiences of health and care services. She was interested to hear their reasons for joining the parent/carer panels and what they hoped to achieve.
Prof. Owolabi was also taken into the nursery, which is operated by Blackburn with Darwen Local Authority, that is situated at the Family Hub. She met with the children and and talked to staff about the children’s oral health programme that ensures that everyday upwards of 100 local children brush their teeth and receive information about the importance of oral hygiene. During the visit there was a targeted vaccination session held at the Hub, arranged by the North Blackburn PCN, who are working to increase access to the flu vaccine for two and three-year-olds in an area where take- up is a significant challenge and reported as the lowest in Lancashire. There was a steady stream of adults and children receiving their vaccinations throughout the visit, helping to protect them during winter.