Photo: Ashford Borough Council

The One You Kent shop in Ashford has been highlighted as a great example of bringing health services to the high street in a national report by the Local Government Association (LGA).

The report recognises that local authorities are responding to the changes taking place within the town centres and how they are used. Many councils are using this opportunity to ‘reconnect communities with their high streets and town centres as well as meet other local priorities, such as housing, access to services and better public health’.

The proliferation of certain retail types can be regarded as having a negative impact on the high street. Combining this with the impact of empty shops can contribute to a perception that hinders investment and visitor footfall. Therefore encouraging a service mix that offers more than just retail is crucial to the economic, cultural and community vibrancy of our town centres, especially when competing with the internet and out-of-town shopping centres. This is certainly something Ashford Borough Council recognises as they work towards the regeneration of the own town centre.

Local government and the NHS are increasingly seeing how integrating health into the high street offering can have an extensive benefit to, not only the regeneration of these areas but, of course, the health and wellbeing of the communities it serves.

The report noted that it ‘can play an important role in addressing health inequalities, offer much-needed additional capacity for health service delivery and attract more people into their local high street, while encouraging healthier lifestyles’.

The case study on Ashford’s One You notes that this innovative ‘health and wellbeing shop has been operating from a popular shopping mall in Kent for the past five years thanks to a partnership between’ Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, Kent County Council and Ashford Borough Council.

When Ashford’s One You shop opened in Park Mall in 2017 it was initially set up as a six month pilot.

The shop helps people to lose weight, get active, quit smoking and feel better about life. The concept was designed so that visitors could simply drop in to chat and get advice about their health and wellbeing. It is now used by a whole host of agencies to provide vital wellbeing support.  

It proved so popular that the shop moved to a larger unit within the mall and has since gone from strength the strength. Before the pandemic the shop was seeing between 400 and 500 visitors a month, with nearly a third of people visiting coming from the six most deprived wards in Ashford. Clients can either refer themselves for support or health or social care professionals can refer on their behalf.

Set over two storeys the shop includes three clinic rooms and a larger space with cooking facilities. Exercise and cookery classes can be provided on site alongside the health MOTs, smoking cessation support and blood pressure checks that are offered.

A smoke free clinic offers free support and advice for anyone aged 12 and above. The clinic also provides support during pregnancy. A lifestyle advisor is available on Wednesdays and a health check clinic runs once a month. One You Kent work with a variety of partners including mental health charities, a drug and alcohol support charity and Fareshare who provide food boxes for those in need. 

There are also three pilot programmes for weight loss being funded for one year, focussing on post-natal, BME and Learning Disability.

Current opening times are from 10am to 2pm from Tuesday to Friday (although this will be expanded over the coming months).

Councillor Peter Feacey, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Wellbeing said: “As a local authority we have a critical role to play in the future of our town centres and offering health services on the high street has a multitude of benefits.

“Visitors can receive immediate access to advice to support their health and wellbeing (which is particularly important given the pressures that the national healthcare system has faced throughout the pandemic and as it recovers from its impact).

“As our town centres experience a period of significant change having an easy-to-access health service there can help to regenerate and shape how our high streets look in the future – not only as a place for retail and residential but as cultural and community hubs.

“I am delighted that the One You Shop has been nationally recognised. The shop provides an excellent service, so if you have not taken the opportunity to pop in and see what they can offer I would highly recommend a visit.”

By Ed

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