Health Service Focus

29.11.19

Make a splash...Save the NHS cash

Source: NHE Nov/Dec

Mike Farrar, former NHS Chief Executive For 13 Years And Chairperson Of Swim England.

 

There’s simply no other sporting activity quite like it.

It can be enjoyed by people of all ages, whether they are physically fit, battling long-term medical conditions or tackling mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression.

However, we can unequivocally show that swimming and water-based activity is proving to be a lifesaver in more ways than one. Generations of people have traditionally gone swimming simply to stay safe in and around water. Now, Swim England’s Value of Swimming report highlights what those of us involved in swimming have known for a long time – it’s incredibly valuable.

Valuable to the individual who is healthier and happier, who feels more confident and more connected to the local community.

Valuable to the NHS, saving time and money on treating patients with physical and mental health conditions.

And valuable to society as being active and having fun in the water helps to address many of the issues in our modern world.

Whilst the health and social benefits of sport and physical activity are widely recognised, the Value of Swimming report demonstrates, for the first time, the significant savings of being in the pool to the health and wellbeing of the nation.

That’s something we’re all thrilled with.

Regular swimming can help to reduce the effects of long-term health conditions, while weekly participation in water-based activity is helping to save our NHS and social care system £357 million a year. We found the largest savings is in treating people living with dementia. One million people in the UK will have dementia by 2025, increasing to two million by 2050 – costing £26 billion a year in the UK.

Yet participants in the Dementia Friendly Swimming project identified improvements in their wellbeing, including pain reduction, balance, functional capability and fitness.

By swimming only once a week in dedicated sessions that offer a calm, serene space, they have noticed improvements in their mental health, mood, confidence, ability to concentrate and reduced anxiety.These sessions are helping to save the NHS £139.5m across the country – and we know that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

With 70 per cent of the NHS budget being spent on chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart problems, regular physical activity such as swimming can reduce occurrence of these conditions by up to 40 per cent.

Being in the water also places less stress on the joints and makes exercise easier and more comfortable for those living with musculoskeletal issues, such as osteoarthritis.

I’ve heard wonderful stories of how people with these conditions go swimming to help reduce their pain and, in turn, trips to their GP – saving the NHS and social care system more than £51 million.

Swimming also has a huge role to play in helping people reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, with 1.4 million adults saying it has helped improve their quality of life.

So I’d urge everyone to consider water-based activity as an alternative way of treating a variety of physical and mental health conditions.

People will soon realise, and begin to enjoy, the incredible benefits being in the water brings.

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