CHARGES: A big step backwards

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I would like to congratulate Active Northumberland and the doctors’ surgeries in the area on their foresight in supporting the Healthstart/Healthquest programmes.

I was already convinced of the personal health benefits of these schemes, but having watched The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs on BBC1, it is clear there are direct benefits to the NHS, not least in cost savings.

Dr Chris Van Tulleken showed that, with medical advice and support, people can use exercise to reduce the use of some medication.

Support and encouragement are vital, and this is something the Concordia team is very good at.

Unfortunately, before I’d finished this letter news of the new pricing structure for Concordia came through.

For those of us on direct debit, although it is a 33 per cent rise, it does increase the times we can attend the gym.

I understand for those people paying on the door the price rise is closer to 65 per cent. This is a massive rise.

The GP referral pricing system is no longer available.

This seems a large step backwards, particularly when there is a need to reduce the pressures on the NHS.

I know that many of us who began on Healthstart have gone on to take up the direct debit membership, a direct benefit to Concordia.

For others, particularly those who may have had to retire early due to ill health and may not be able to afford the direct debit payments, the new pricing structure seems punitive.

The new options mean anyone attending the six-month Healthstart programme who wants to take up a direct debit will have to commit to payment for a year, or pay a higher charge.

If the new charges are designed to make the system fairer, why is the single site option of gym and class only unavailable at some sites?

Come on Active Northumberland, consider the benefits to the NHS of encouraging those who most need a health programme to try it out.

Also consider how many cheap local gyms are now available.

Luckily for you, you do have a major asset in the ladies who run your Healthstart/Healthquest classes.

Their excellent training gives us the confidence to push a bit harder, knowing we are in the hands of professionals.

Their encouragement and support means we keep coming back and makes it less likely we’ll go to one of the cheap local gyms.

Joan Bartram

Seghill