‘Good neighbours’ key to health watch idea

The scheme is already being trialled in several communities including Budleigh Salterton, Lympstone and Newton St Cyres. The scheme is already being trialled in several communities including Budleigh Salterton, Lympstone and Newton St Cyres.

Thursday, March 20, 2014
3:28 PM

A ‘trailblazing’ scheme aimed at empowering neighbours to support one another could be trialled in Sidmouth under proposals revealed by health professionals.

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The Neighbourhood Health Watch (NHW) would serve to link statutory services like the NHS with voluntary organisations and local businesses, who can then use their collective resources to support those who need help.

The scheme would centre around a ‘hub’ where information on residents’ needs could be shared and cross referenced by community groups.

A presentation by the group behind the NHW on Tuesday attracted representatives from more than 25 Sid Valley charities.

Addressing the meeting, chamber of commerce chairman Steven Kendall-Torry described it as a ‘Sidmouth-based project that would tie in all the various groups’.

“This has come about from different groups who are already doing fantastic work in their chosen areas,” he said. “It will involve taking what you are already doing, and cross referencing it with different groups.”

“But we don’t want any of the groups to change whatsoever - this is just a way to get you to work together, to better understand what is going on in the community as a whole.

“It will involve a bit of trailblazing in Sidmouth,” added Mr Kendall-Torry. “And it is ambitious - but it is based on something that is already working.”

The scheme is an evolution of an idea to set up a hotline for the town revealed in January.

Dr Peter Aitken, co-founder of the NHW, said the scheme relied on neighbours feeling they could trust each other, so the initial set up stage would involve local GPs and PCSOs to help broker that trust.

He added: “Can you help me get to the hospital for an appointment? Can you look after my pet while I’m in hospital? Can you help look after me when I’m back from hospital?

“These are not the sort of things that people may usually be comfortable with asking their neighbours, but the NHW would provide a link to do this.”

Dr Aitken explained that the functioning service would require a base of ‘good neighbours’ - people who were happy to help with minor but important tasks such as picking up groceries for a neighbour who is ill.

The idea is a relatively new one, with only a handful of examples set up in Devon - and Sidmouth would be the largest area the scheme has been attempted in.

Representatives from Sid Valley voluntary organisations agreed to form a working group to discuss how the scheme could be implemented.

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