SOCIAL INCLUSION THROUGH HEALTH VOLUNTEERING IN BIRMINGHAM

This week we visited “Strictly Not Rehab” with the Bishop of Birmingham. “Strictly …” is a programme run jointly by Gateway Family Services CIC and University Hospitals Birmingham.

We were there to see how the programme works and find out why it’s successful.

The programme has two objectives linked to improving health – to engage more cardiac patients in activity that could prevent a second heart attack and to give unemployed people an opportunity to gain skills and work experience as there is a strong link between unemployment and ill-health.

Using volunteers trained up by Gateway, the programme runs twice weekly dance sessions for patients recovering from heart surgery at Selly Oak Methodist Church Centre. Their partners are welcome to go along too.

The sessions are coordinated by Kate Gee, consultant nurse, from the hospital’s Cardiac Rehabilitation Service.

Here is a short video of Kate talking about the programme

Kate’s point in the video about “de-medicalising” patients’ recovery was definitely evident in the session and the emphasis was on having a good time. The dancing was led by Alistair, a professional dance teacher who took everyone through the steps at a suitable pace to music from the 1930s to the 1950s.

People who are new to the group can choose to sit and watch until they feel confident enough to have a go and the volunteers are there to encourage them to join in when they feel ready.

The Bishop talked with volunteers and patients while we were there and even had a go at learning the jitterbug.

Bishop David said:

“The cardio volunteer programme is an excellent partnership between Gateway Family Services and University Hospitals Birmingham.

“These regular dance sessions are a great way of heart patients getting exercise in a supportive and sociable setting, helping their recovery and having fun at the same time.”

It’s not only the patients that benefit – the volunteers get training and qualifications and several unemployed people who have joined the programme as volunteers have gone on to find paid work as a result of the experience.

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