Changing the conversation about health

Wester Hailes Health Agency

CoM Tags:

community health, Wester Hailes Health Agency, College of Medicine

 green_gyms The Wester Hailes Health Agency provides a unique holistic service to an economically and socially disadvantaged community of approximately 12,000 people in SW Edinburgh.What’s on offer is determined by consultation with service users and the wider community. Self care is enabled and encouraged through provision of :

  • Physical activities such as community gardening
  • Green gym
  • A large programme of exercise classes for all abilities
  • Drop ins
  • Interest groups
  • Time banking
  • Counselling service
  • Complementary therapies

The project was shortlisted for the College of Medicine’s 2011 Innovations Award, and highly commended in 2012.


Year established
Number of staff
5 full time staff; 45 volunteers
Number of users
400 per year
Is there a charge to users?
All physical exercise classes, T’ai Chi, Zumba, weight reduction, Pilates Yoga, Chi Gung are 50p for local residents and £3 for local professionals working in the area.Complementary therapies are £10 for 45 mins session All other services free with donations voluntary
The population of approximately 12,000 has the following rates:61% live in social housing
64% do not own a car
43% have no formal qualifications
3x national average rate for cardiovascular disease
Double the national self harm rate
3x rate of mental ill health
51% eat no fresh fruit
38% eat no fresh vegetables
What makes your project sustainable?
The HA has a wealth of opportunities for volunteers to contribute to its work and gain invaluable resilience skills and social capital experiences. Their involvement enables the small paid staff team to offer a huge range of activities such as the gardening groups, Complementary Therapies service, Time banking, Green Gym, Walking groups and Counseling service. In exchange volunteers access training, support and many new skills to add to their CV and self esteem.The environmental sustainability is ensured by carbon foot printing all new project proposals, and a commitment to ecological local community development projects. The new move in August to front of house for the HA in the new build Healthy Living Centre which has been built with sustainability and ecological architecture in design at its core will add to the HAs environmental sustainability.The HA has just learned it has been awarded a £300,000K grant over 2 years, the largest grant of its kind in Scotland, to develop 2 Edible Estate neighborhoods, from Awards for All. This will establish community food growing projects in SW Edinburgh. 
Since its inception in 1998 the HA has been rooted within its community, ensuring its Board membership has significant numbers of local residents and that all services offered have been identified in consultation with service providers.Stakeholders including Community Psychiatric Nurses, 3 GP practices, Social work teams, teachers of local schools, local voluntary sector health care providers and local people themselves know that by referring and accessing the HA they will receive care and support tailored to their needs. Increasing personal resilience, confidence building and helping foster a sense of responsibility for sustaining health are the HA aims.The degree of local trust and ownership of the HA is highly innovativeThe HA has a proven record of introducing new services for its community:

  • The 1st Edinburgh Time Banking project was began by the HA.
  • Its team of 2 paid and 4 volunteer massage and reflexology therapists offer the largest and cheapest CT service in the voluntary sector in Edinburgh.
  • The new Awards For All Edible estates projects will be the first of their kind in Scotland.
  • The 13 volunteer counsellors provide along with the 2 paid staff the largest voluntary sector counselling service in Edinburgh.
  • The Community Gardening and Green Gym projects along with the physical exercise package of classes offer unique range of activities to improve self care physically and emotionally.


Patient-centred, whole person preventative approach
All HA clients are approached holistically and from their initial appointment when the services of the HA are outlined are encouraged and supported to consider how they could use services to improve mind, body and spirit and a sense of belonging within their community.Service users are represented significantly on the Board and many volunteer alongside paid staff and are consulted and part of service planning and delivery. So many volunteers are involved in the day to day service provision that they are a constant visible presence in the everyday life of the HA.Many of the HA services are offered as tools for maintaining good health and becoming aware of the signs of problems developing. For example the anxiety management and meditation and mindfulness classes teach about spotting the onset of too much stress. 
Evidence informed practice/audit and evaluation
Each service within the HA is evaluated ongoing through the use of questionnaires, rapid appraisals, exit surveys and post participation follow up evaluation. The CORE method of evaluation is used for many services. Review days, in house trainings, comments and suggestions boxes also feed into the informed practice resources.All new services are began with clear outcomes defined and methods established to ensure an accurate picture is maintained as to whether the service is achieving what it set out to,and identify any problems.
Multi-disciplinary collaboration, communication and professional practice
The HA is at all times dedicated to delivering all its services in partnership with all other relevant health care providers. Its membership of the following demonstrated this:

  • SW Edinburgh Public Partnership forum
  • SW Edinburgh Inequalities group.( Which produced the Local Neighborhood Health plan)
  • Edinburgh West Voluntary sector forum
  • Health Projects forum

The Time Banking , Walking Groups, Anxiety management services, are partnership projects with other organisations.

All local services and projects within the HA catchment know , trust and value its services and take the opportunities when they arise to be part of any collaborative work.

We have routine connection with 3 GP practices, Health Visitors, nurses
, community psychiatric nurses, physiotherapists as they all refer clients a lot to us. Clients are asked if we may have their permission to share any health information if it is deemed necessary to their well being and they sign a consent form.We belong too many Healthcare forums etc that comprise healthcare prvoiders and ensure a partnership approach is used at all times in service provision

Many of our clients have chronic health conditions and are under the care of their GP and maybe a hospital too. We work in tandem with these healthcare professionals, always respectful of any treatments they may be receiving. Again a partnership model of working is used. Many of our clients keep us very well informed themselves, ringing in if they are admitted to hospital and we always check in each session to see if they are on any new meds or have stopped/reduced any. It is a model that seems to work very well and the clients enjoy having the twin support system.

The staff team are cohesive and healthy, the fact they often eat together at lunch time is one of those informal barometers of good relations. They have team meetings every fortnight and are encouraged to own and mutually support each others work. They hold review days and occasional whole team 3 day training events. All are clear about the Agencys core aims, values and mission

Many staff access the Complementary therapies at lunchtime or after work and value it greatly. Staff can join in the Yoga and Pilates at lunchtimes and the emphasis at lunchtime is on healthy eating, by some staff leading by example! All staff include in all of their work awareness of the need for full and fair representation of all the community it serves.


Quotes from users
“ This place is my life saver. I do not know what I would do without it. And for a lot of others too. The garden, the counselling , the massage , the walking , and being on the Board. You should see this place on its Open day , then you realise how many folk use it , its mobbed” Larry“ the only way I can cope with my COPD and my osteoarthritis is by having the lovely massages, and going to the T’ai Chi. I don’t know how I would manage without it” Moria“ Its always so friendly I can just walk in and someone will make time to talk. If I want to try a new thing they really support you to have a go. It’s a fantastic part of my community” Jenny“ Time banking is brilliant. I can offer my skills and then get help with the things I am not very good at” Eric


Contact details
Wester Hailes Health Agency
40 Drumdryden Drive
EH14 2QRMaggi Scott
T: 0131 622 0317