16 February 2016

Prescribing yoga and arts classes on the NHS is money well spent

Want, Idleness, Ignorance, Squalor and Disease: these were the five "giants" identified by Sir William Beveridge in his wartime report that laid the foundation  for the postwar welfare state. He omitted a sixth that is less viable yet as old as civilisation: loneliness.

Isolation inflicts a heavy psychological burden, especially on the elderly. It also has financial costs, in worsening ill health. An innovative scheme in Rotherham suggests how these can be reduced. Health administrators in the town have since 2012 allocated about £500,000 a year to community groups to help vulnerable patients to join them.

It works, for patients and health budgets. GPs direct patients to activities such as yoga, fitness classes or the arts, or counseling for those with financial or welfare problems. This sort of social prescribing reduces the pressure on medical services. Analysis by Sheffield Hallam University suggests that by reducing A & E visits, hospital stays and GP appointments, the programme saves the NHS 43p for each £1 initially spent. If the benefits were continued for five years, the NHS would save twice as much as it spent.

It takes care to interpret and apply these figures. As life expectancy increases and other institutions (such as organised religion) wane in their adherents, however, it makes eminent sense for policymakers to stress social and preventative health measures.

In their recent book Thrive,  the economist Lord Layard and psychologist David Clark argue that mental illness causes more widespread suffering in society than physical illness, or than poverty and unemployment. For the NHS to provide effective, evidence-based psychological treatments is money efficiently spent. To prescribe activities for patients before they fall prey to the scourge of mental illness at all is humane and economical.

Article published in the The Times, Monday 15 February 2016, p.29

Prescription for yoga cuts A&E visits

Prescribing yoga, arts and Xbox fitness classes on the NHS can cut A & E visits by a sixth, according to an analysis of one of the largest such schemes.

Lonely older patients are much happier of GPs send them to knitting, woodwork or local history groups and the NHS could save money because they need less treatment, the study suggests.

Family doctors say they have replaced priests as the first port of call for people with social or financial problems, and non-medical help will free up appointments. Loneliness exacerbates health problems of the elderly.

In one of the longest running programmes, health chiefs in Rotherham have spent £500,000 a year since 2012 on community groups and advisers to help vulnerable patients to joint them.

Tai chi, quizzes, indoor curling and other exercises are among the groups offered to lonely older people, while those with financial problems are given debt and welfare advice and those with depression are steered towards music or creative writing classes. The NHS pays for 10 or 20 weeks of classes.

An evaluation of the scheme by Sheffield Hallam University suggests that patients taking part reduced their attendances at A & E by 17 per cent and hospital stays by 11 per cent. This saved the NHS 43p for each £1 it spent initially, while 82 per cent of patients felt happier, better connected or less worried.

Maureen Baker, chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "Social prescribing schemes can contribute to a patient's overall health and well-being and this report shows that it can lead to a number of positive outcomes".

Article by Chris Smyth, published in The Times, Monday 15 February 2016, p.4

07 February 2016

Yoga for Birth Preparation


NEXT COURSE: Wednesday 4/5 and Wednesday 11/5/2016

Diane's "Yoga for Birth Preparation" classes are tailored for the final stages of pregnancy (from 32 weeks), where what we need most is to quieten the mind, let go of time pressures and constant doing and be in a consciously relaxed state, where we can connect with ourselves, our babies and our inner birthing wisdom.

The course runs over two weeks covering the following topics:

Week 1:
The natural physiology of birth – What to expect at different stages of the labour process
Using breath as your anchor in labour – Detailed breath techniques for the different stages of labour.

Week 2:
Managing fear – Trusting your body and nurturing a sense of empowerment Creating a positive intention and guided relaxation – Letting go of the intellect and connecting with intuition and instincts. After the initial discussion, the session then becomes more body focused incorporating yoga postures that can help move the labour process along and build an inner and outer strength, to support a woman along the course of her labour. The class ends with a restorative relaxation, fully supporting the mum to be, so they can let go and connect with their inner self and their babies. Above all, the class aims to nurture a sense of community and sharing in the final stages of pregnancy to support women as they approach their birth and enter into motherhood.


This course costs £40. To book your place, visit the Yoga Mama online booking system or call us on 020 8789 3881.