Time to share Aylsham’s visionary health and social care model
- Credit: Archant
It delivered the first community-led integrated health and social care scheme of its kind in the UK.
And a Norfolk charity now wants to share its model with communities across the country.
Aylsham Care Trust's calling card, a documentary video, which was commissioned to mark its 31st anniversary and the impact it's had, was premiered last week.
The charity started as Aylsham pharmacist, Rees Coghlan's prescription to provide dignity and support for the elderly and vulnerable.
And it has now delivered an exemplary development, which paves the way for more sustainable health and social care in communities.
Mr Coghlan's pioneering legacy was celebrated at the premiere of the video, which also included a series of tributes to the 91-year-old former pharmacist's pivotal role in the trust's development.
The Coghlan family gifted land enabling the ACT centre to open in St Michael's Avenue in 2012 as part of the St Michael's Care Complex.
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Along with a health centre and pharmacy, St Michael's Court care home and a housing with care scheme it forms part of a leading national example of quality provision for elderly people.
The premiere at Aylsham Town Hall was attended by about 150 people including volunteers, staff, users and former users.
Mr Coghlan, who founded the trust in September 1985, said: 'It's developed beyond my wildest dreams, and that's due to so many people. 'Someone said to me it would be a seven-day wonder, but it's lasted a little longer than that.
'I've been motivated by the teaching of Jesus, that we should help one another, and share the love of Jesus in practical ways. What has been achieved in Aylsham could be used elsewhere.'
He was presented with an apothecary bottle filled with messages from people in the community.
At first the trust concentrated on just transporting patients to doctors' receptions and hospitals. They then discovered that one of the community's big needs was to ameliorate loneliness and started luncheon clubs.
Current ACT chairman Jenny Manser joined in 1991. Her background was in social housing and she had travelled all over East Anglia, but she had never come across anything as unique as the trust.
The trust's first office was a little caravan, before it moved to a small room in Aylsham, and then to Mrs Manser's shed.
When the health and care complex opened in 2012 it provided all the services that Mr Coghlan dreamed of including a community centre and cafe.
The team of 150 volunteers and members of staff now serve 10,000 meals a year, and the trust supports people in Aylsham and 14 surrounding villages.
Mrs Manser said: 'We brought people into ACT who understood the planning system and the future needs for community-based health and social care.
'Our success was born from a vision owned by the community. The tough negotiations between statutory and private sector partners around realising our vision were driven and brokered by us. Local ownership is the key to our success and it will be the key to our sustainability.'
She said the trust was 'like a patchwork quilt that has been built up over many years'.
She added: 'The single concept was that people in the community should help other people in the community.
'From working with multi-agencies such as the NHS, local councils, housing associations, and private car providers, among others, we have been able to fill the gap between what the GPs and carers can do.
'It could be a model for the rest of the country. We are already helping other communities do what we're with done in Halesworth and Attleborough.'
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb has praised the trust's work.
He said: 'I think this scheme is inspiring, it points to what is needed in the future. The NHS is clearly under impossible pressure; it is unsustainable as it works at the moment and they have shown in Aylsham how collaboration between volunteers, the local community, GPs, social services and other parts of the NHS, can achieve amazing results.'