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National recognition for Chester GP practice

A Chester GP practice has earned a prestigious national award for transforming mental health services and going the extra mile for its community.

Western Avenue Medical Centre outshone hundreds of rivals to win the “Clinical Improvement – Mental Health” category of the General Practice Awards 2020.

The award was made by an expert panel of judges appointed by Cogoran, publisher of a string of national journals and magazines serving the medical community.

The honour recognised a series of achievements including setting up a community interest company that secured £500,000 funding from London-based charity The Westminster Foundation to expand mental health services for families and young people.

The funding was awarded in conjunction with Platform for Life, a charity that specialises in supporting young people and families. They work with the family as a whole and look to break the cycle of poor mental health in children as they move into adulthood. The funding has allowed Platform for Life to increase its presence in Blacon, employing additional counsellors.

The practice provided 8,000 food parcels to vulnerable families during the first six months of the Covid-19 pandemic and delivered Christmas food and toy hampers to 150 families.

The practice set up its own store. It takes surplus food from supermarkets and food manufacturers and passes it on to local residents. While residents are collecting their food, the practice signposts to various services and groups based in and around Blacon that can offer support with a range of issues including mental health, housing, debt and benefits advice.

It persuaded Blacon-based leisure provider RAGE fitness to offer free gym membership to patients prescribed exercise to combat sedentary lifestyles, it organised parenting classes for new parents and introduced a mental health education and drop-in service for Blacon High School. It also launched healthy eating cookery classes for parents and children in The Arches, Highfield, Dee Point, St Theresa’s and JH Godwin Primary Schools.

Finally, it worked with a string of third sector organisations to provide food to children of disadvantaged families during school holidays.

Dr Andrew Wilson, clinical chair of NHS Cheshire Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Western Avenue is a shining example of a community-focused GP practice that works innovatively with partners to look after the whole person. I can’t think of a more worthy recipient of this award.”

Western Avenue practice manager Jamie Ducker added: “We’re thrilled to have won this award – not just for our staff but for the many community partners who’ve worked with us to improve people’s lives.

“As we and our partners emerge from the Covid crisis, we’ll be redoubling our collective efforts to do the best we can for our patients and their families.”