Chief medical officer Chris Whitty learns about ageing in Darley and Harrogate
Jul 3, 2023
Professor Chris Whitty with Darley Village Shop’s manager, Dawn Abbott.

England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has visited Nidderdale and Harrogate to collect information for his annual health report.

His report this year will focus on health issues in an ageing society.

To learn first-hand about the issues, Prof Whitty talked to various local groups about the challenge of tackling social isolation in rural communities.

He was shown around Darley Village Shop, a community hub set up in 2016 which is home to a café and a post office. The shop was launched in 2016 following a major £60,000 fundraising drive organised by Darley locals.

As well as providing a space for locals to sit and socialise, staff and volunteers at the village store have been delivering meals to elderly residents in the local area.

He spoke to Tracey Dawson of Nidderdale Plus, which provides services that improve the wellbeing of older residents, such as minibus trips, and met the chair of Christ Church Community Centre in Darley, which stages coffee mornings and exercise classes for older people.

Prof Whitty said:

“It is really insightful to see how local people have found solutions to support their communities.

“What people are doing here in Nidderdale shows what can be achieved, and it is helping address some of the big challenges we face as a society.

“People have demonstrated how they can come together to help others, especially during the covid-19 crisis, and it is good to see this good work is continuing to be built on.”

Prof Whitty with (left to right) Nidderdale Plus digital champion co-ordinator Jo Hayes, Christ Church Community Centre committee member Erica Spencer, and Christ Church Community Centre chair, Angela Houseman.

Prof Whitty also travelled to The Cuttings care home in Starbeck run by Harrogate Neighbours,  as well as a hub club that operates at the Dementia Forward community hub in Burton Leonard.

He also went to Harrogate District Hospital, where he spoke with NHS staff and social workers about local services including those provided by Harrogate and Rural Alliance and North Yorkshire Council’s Living Well project, which is a free service to improve the health, wellbeing and independence of adults.

North Yorkshire Council leader Carl Les, said:

“In North Yorkshire, we are leading the way nationally with schemes such as Extra Care, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

“To be able to show the chief medical officer first-hand how those initiatives work was a real honour”

According to the latest census, over 65s represent around 25% of the population in North Yorkshire compared to 18% for England as a whole. The council predicts this figure will increase to a third by 2043.

Louise Wallace, the council’s director of public health who accompanied Prof Whitty on his visit. said:

“To have the chief medical officer visiting to see these challenges and also all the good work that is being done by our communities was an invaluable opportunity.”

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