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News - 11th September 2019

Prescribing parkrun to the local community

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Dr Simon Lennane is a GP based at Alton Street Surgery in Ross-on-Wye, and Mental Health GP Lead for the Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and has recently played an integral role in launching Ross-on-Wye parkrun.

 

Dr Lennane tells us the story behind the event, and why he was so passionate about creating a parkrun for the local community to enjoy and benefit from for years to come.

 

Our town has the same problems with diabetes, overweight and lack of activity seen throughout the UK, and as a practice we’ve always been interested in social prescribing and finding alternatives to medication.

 

Although there is an active rowing club and a ramblers group, as GPs we didn’t have particular links into these, and we wanted to find ways to make exercise easy to access for our patients. We see a lot of problems with loneliness, often contributing to poor health and healthcare attendances, and the community spirit aspect of parkrun really appealed.

 

A GP friend in Brighton had been telling me about the parkrun she attends and I was interested in whether we could get something going in Ross. Despite having never voluntarily run anywhere, I’d started doing couch to 5k and was surprised to find myself enjoying it.

 

I posted a question on the town’s Facebook page and was pleased to see the level of interest and find Nigel and Cat, who already had a plan and an idea for a course by the riverside. Other members of our local running club got involved, and we soon had an excellent core team in place.


Having health input just gave the extra impetus needed to get things going. Our surgery is fairly central and was a convenient and free place to host the monthly meetings. I was lucky that my PCN Clinical Director role meant I was in a position to promote parkrun within the local NHS.

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We celebrated our inaugural event on Saturday 3 August and we are now a few weeks in. We are averaging around 230 parkrunners of all ages and abilities each week, and it is fantastic to see so many people from the local community starting their weekends with a walk, jog or run around our lovely course, running on grass in a beautiful environment.

There are already more links with the sports centre users who are setting up as parkrun finishes. We are getting lots of visitors and Ross-on-Wye seems to be a popular destination already.
The two Ross-on-Wye surgeries, as well as neighbouring GP practices, have been very supportive, donating to help set up parkrun, and local GPs have taken part at each of our parkrun events so far.

 

The PPGs, local PCN and our CCG have all seen the value in making exercise accessible to all. Some of our nursing and reception staff are running along with their families, but interestingly we’re also seeing a lot of secondary care and hospital colleagues attending too. We don’t see our other health colleagues nearly enough and it’s a great chance to catch up. 

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We advertise parkrun on the reception screen and have been encouraging patients to attend, with positive results. Given my interest in improving mental health, I’m particularly keen to encourage volunteers, as it’s an excellent way to spend time with others, and can help to build up confidence for people not used to running. Ideally the marshalling points would each have two volunteers, allowing the chance to chat.

 

Such has been the success in such a short space of time, the next step will be developing a junior parkrun in the town, and building on the success of parkrun to encourage our patients to get active


Running won’t suit everyone, but at parkrun you can also walk, jog or volunteer – everyone is welcome. We’re now working on a ‘moveRoss’ campaign, with buddies from each of the sports and activity groups to make it easy for people to get involved, which itself is part of a wider community development initiative based on Good Neighbour schemes. 

 

As PCN Clinical Director, I work closely with the Mayor and the Council, and it’s been interesting to see the town council recognise the wider benefit of parkrun, and the potential benefits to tourism (particularly as Ross-on-Wye is considered the birthplace of tourism!).

 

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The core team are grateful to everyone who helped Ross-on-Wye parkrun get off the ground, particularly our local parkrun ambassador Mark Williamson who has been incredibly helpful. I’m very pleased that we’re now part of the parkrun family.

 

My advice to fellow GPs – if you don’t already have a local parkrun you can partner with - consider starting one yourself! I promise you, the rewards are worth the effort!

 Dr Simon Lennane

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