Investing in health and wellbeing: a very distinctive practice

Some readers may recall ‘A Very Peculiar Practice’, the outstanding campus satire by Andrew Davies based around a strange and terrible university medical practice in the 1980s. Higher education health care is now very different indeed and it is good to see the strong emphasis universities place on student health and well-being.

We’ve seen two excellent examples of this recently at the University of Nottingham. First we had the formal launch of the student health and well-being strategy which aims to develop a consistent culture with integrated support. The strategy is intended to enable students to make informed choices about their health and well-being and develop their confidence, knowledge and resilience.

The strategy covers five main areas: healthy campus community; environment; mental well-being; learning experience; and lifestyle. Projects, initiatives, and services are considered as a part of a spectrum of interventions that help staff to identify where more resource or more emphasis is required. These interventions fall into three main areas: preventative promotions; early response; and clinical and specialist services.

The other significant development in this vein was the opening of the brand new Cripps Health Centre at the University of Nottingham.

Inter-generational philanthropy

As far as I am able to tell this is the first new university health centre in almost a decade and one of only a handful this century so far (UWE opened one in 2009, Aston in 2008 and Sheffield in 2005).

The Cripps Health Centre is the largest single-site health centre in the country and has been built thanks to a transformational gift of £9m from the Cripps Foundation. Present for the opening was Robert Cripps, Director of Philanthropy, who said:

My family has had a relationship with the University of Nottingham which is moving into a fourth generation. My grandfather and father were attracted to the university because of its support for engineering. As the university has gone from strength to strength we are happy to renew that support for the next generations and provide the best medical support that is available in this country. What is most impressive is not just the new building, but the people who work within it and provide an unparalleled degree of excellence in their service to the university community.

The new facility has replaced the original Cripps Health Centre, which opened in 1969 and at that time had just under 1,500 students and staff on its records. It now has a 45,000 patients — the biggest GP register on one single site in the UK. The University of Nottingham Health Service is also rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission:

The new facility offers a holistic approach to primary health and dental care with enhanced clinical consulting rooms, minor operations suites, a patient observation bay, physiotherapy areas, dentist treatment rooms, pharmacy and mental health suite, as well as training rooms and offices.
Student welfare services remain a priority at Cripps with the new-build providing appropriate accommodation for the University Mental Health Advisory Service, with space to bring in associate staff at busy times as needed, for example providing essential crisis services to the student community.
The new Health Centre has also incorporated medicinal and aromatherapy plants into the Courtyard Garden, with an area of Chinese medicinal planting.

The formal opening duties were performed by Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation.

It’s a great facility and the new Cripps Health Centre represents a landmark in support for student and staff health and well-being in UK higher education. All in all, an extremely long way from being a very peculiar practice.

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