News that a life-changing East Lancashire health and fitness service will be scrapped due to funding cuts has been met with extreme disappointment.
The Active Lives and Healthy Weight service – known as Up and Active across East Lancashire – will cease to exist from March 2020 after Lancashire County Council pulled the plug on funding.
Its £2m. budget has been cut to £500,000 – a one-off sum – which will lead to service restructuring and new partnership arrangements with the county council believing elements of Up and Active should be funded by the NHS' Clinical Commissioning Groups
Up and Active has been available either as self referral or health practitioner referral since 2016, covering Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Ribble Valley and Rossendale.
During that time, a total of 14,938 people have attended either a 12-week weight management course, a 12-week physical activity course or cardiac rehab. Of those, 3,712 were from Burnley, 3,428 from Pendle and 1,952 from Ribble Valley.
These figures do not include group sessions where Up and Active team members have gone into the community to work with people of any age from primary schools to pensioners.
They also do not include thousands who have logged into the Up and Active website to get healthy eating, weight management or physical activity advice.
An Up and Active spokesman said: "It's obviously disappointing news, particularly given the success of the Up and Active programme and the positive difference it has made to people's lives in terms of improving their mental and physical health and making them more active.
"There is also a financial benefit in terms of every £1 invested in the Up and Active programme providing a social return on investment of £28.19.
"However, we recognise that the county council is facing significant funding cuts and urge the Government to recognise the severe financial pressures faced by local government.
"We are working with the county council and other organisations and partners across Lancashire to look at alternative funding and service delivery plans. This we hope will lead to a more co-ordinated commissioning process, which will deliver continued health improvements along with greater value for money."
Elsewhere, fewer people will be eligible for places on drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes and the county’s stop smoking service will become more targeted, as part wide-ranging plans agreed by Lancashire County Council’s cabinet.
Total savings of more than £4.1m will be made from public health schemes following the results of public consultations about all of the proposed changes.
County Coun. Shaun Turner, cabinet member for health and wellbeing, said: "Reducing the budget for these Health Improvement Services is a very tough decision.
"We fully recognise the importance of preventing illness, but we are having to respond to the reduction in the national ring fenced public health grant.
"We will continue to ensure that prevention is embedded in everything we do as a council and find innovative ways of enabling people to live healthier and happier lives.
"As well as making these savings, we're also reorganising these services so that we work much closer with other partner organisations such as the NHS, target services on specific sections of the community in most need of support and make better use of digital technology to help people to stay well and get support when they need it."