Healthshack, a rehabilitation and exercise facility in Almondbury, near Huddersfield, has been deemed an ‘essential’ service by Kirklees Council. The facility, now in its fourth year of trading was granted essential status earlier last month whilst UK leisure and exercise facilities experienced a second lockdown following a spike in COVID cases.

Annettte Purves, a qualified Occupational Therapist who owns and operates the facility commented, “We were in a very unique position. As a recognised health practitioner, the Government, thank goodness, gave health care professionals the go ahead to do their job and keep people well because of the pressure on NHS services due to COVID. I was more than relieved when Kirklees Council called to say we could stay open.”

Impact of COVID

During the first lockdown, Healthshack, like most businesses had to close its doors and the impact to the health and wellbeing of service users was detrimental. “People we had been rehabilitating for over 3 years, particularly those living with Parkinsons had deteriorated so badly during lockdown that some simply could not travel to the centre anymore. It’s beyond devasting for them, their families and all the hard work they had put into managing their health & fitness.”

Annette and her team offer support for a wide range of health conditions including Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, MS and Stroke. In addition, the team also help with prehabilitation for those awaiting surgery. “We have a number of clients who are awaiting knee or hip replacements. Our prehab includes helping to get the muscles and joints healthy and ready for surgery or for when the orthotic is going to be applied.”

Jenny attended the facility for prehab. She is now 6 weeks post knee replacement and is already back at Healthshack exercising. She can also walk independently without the support of walking aids, “I stopped using crutches after 4 weeks and returned to exercise after 5 weeks. I can do most things that I didn’t think I would be able to do, so I am quite happy. People who have had similar knee operations have said that I’m doing really well, and I think I’m doing really well too.”

Having recently expanded their service offering, the facility now boasts a range of  power assisted exercise equipment supplied by Shapemaster, an infra-red sauna system which helps support pain management, a cardiovascular suite equipped with the latest workout machines, and a range of holistic treatments that includes sports & oncology massage and cognitive behaviour therapy.

A Sense of Community

Annette speaks movingly of the ‘sense of community spirit’ that the facility encompasses, “It’s like a little family, everybody knows everybody and it’s just lovely. We are passionate about our community and of those who would otherwise be stuck at home with no family to talk to. In some ways we have become their home and I think it’s a real testament of the passion and care adopted by the whole team. People who have lost their partners will come here for a coffee, a cry and just to have someone to talk to. Hopefully, they see us as friends and not just a business.”

National Landscape for Rehabilitation Needs

A recent survey conducted by the CSP (Chartered Institute of Physiotherapy) of over 4,000 members, reported that only 15% of services normally offered were fully up and running (by September 2020). The report also revealed that people with long-term conditions and frailty had deconditioned and deteriorated during lockdown and a backlog of elective procedures were putting increased pressure and high demand on community services. Furthermore there are significant new rehabilitation needs of people recovering from Long Covid. This has also been recognised by the UK Government, with the announcement to launch 40 specialist clinics addressing the problem which is thought to affect more than 60,000 people.

As we say goodbye to what has been a annus horribilis and head towards 2021, the need for facilities such as Healthshack that play a such a vital role in rehabilitation, prehabilitation and peer support for local communities can only increase and serve as much needed support to offload the pressure of hemorrhaging NHS services.