Category Archives: Health and Wellbeing

Spreading light for International Day of the Midwife

'100' is superimposed onto a light blue background to celebrate that many 'years of progress' thanks to the 'International Confederation of Midwives'. The '1' includes an image of a pregant woman, the first '0' of midwifes, and the second '0' the world.
Today’s blog is by Naomi Havergal, Digital Content Editor at the Royal College of Midwives (@MidwivesRCM)

International Day of the Midwife (IDM) is celebrated every year on 5 May to recognise the dedication and commitment midwives have to their local communities, and Bristol midwives are no exception.

Over the last few years midwives have faced unprecedented challenges to deliver high quality and safe maternity care to women, babies, and families. This year’s IDM will be the first time since 2019 that our midwives can come together and celebrate and receive the recognition they deserve.

IDM was created by the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) to bring together midwives’ associations from around the world. This year we celebrate ‘100 Years of Progress’ to coincide with centenary of the ICM. What a long way we have come since midwifery became a recognised profession in Britain under the Midwives Act in 1902.

IDM provides an opportunity for midwives to be in their own spotlight. That is when the idea came to the Royal College of Midwives to light up Bristol City Hall in the colours of the only trade union dedicated to supporting midwives. We are here for you.

Many midwives in Bristol will be on shift during IDM, which is why we contacted the Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees to see if he could help us celebrate. We were absolutely delighted by his enthusiasm to ensure this happened. When midwives are walking home after their shift, or student midwives walking home from their placements, City Hall will be illuminated in honour of them.

Midwives aren’t just simply there for the birth. They are present throughout pregnancy, labour, birth and the postnatal period. Across Bristol we have specialist midwives and research midwives, and even midwives who have become lecturers to teach the next generation. All of these people provide some of the best maternity care in the world.

On Thursday 5 May 2022, Bristol City Hall will be lit up at sunset in support of IDM. If you’re in the area, please share your pictures using the hashtag #IDM2022. We would love to see them!

Thank you to our midwives at Bristol Royal Infirmary, Southmead Hospital, and our student midwives at the University of West of England for their dedication to midwifery.

Building an Age-Friendly City

Learning from the Bristol Ageing Better programme

Today’s blog is by Bianca Rossetti, Project Manager at Age UK Bristol

Last week saw the close of Bristol Ageing Better (BAB), a seven-year National Lottery funded programme that saw over £6 million invested in projects to improve social wellbeing among older people in Bristol.  

We reached an estimated 30,000 older people, and the evaluation conducted by UWE and our team of Community Researchers (all volunteers aged 50+) showed direct improvements through reductions in isolation and loneliness. Projects like the small grants fund and group mental health and wellbeing services demonstrated the power of communities and voluntary organisations as conduits for friendships and social activities that transform people’s lives. None of this would have been possible without Bristol having a strong third sector that works collaboratively rather than in competition, and without the efforts of volunteers. Around 2,000 people gave their time for free to make the programme happen: over 63,000 volunteer hours. Many older people also volunteered to help shape the programme from the top, with our Programme Board including older people with lived experience as Bristol residents.

Changing the conversation on loneliness

The last few years have seen a dramatic shift in the way we talk about and understand loneliness. BAB began in 2015, as one of 14 areas across England successful in securing funding from the National Lottery Community Fund’s Fulfilling Lives: Ageing Better programme. This investment came after decades of mounting evidence about the impact of loneliness and social isolation on people’s mental and physical health, and how many of common events in later life combine with problems in the built environment to create a gap between the kinds of relationships and social connections we want and those we have.

The legacy of the BAB programme has been to create lasting changes in many communities, leaving the city with a large body of evidence on the initiatives that improve social wellbeing locally. We’re also thrilled that five of these successful models will carry on through a 12-month programme funded by the NHS Healthier Together Ageing Well Fund. A new ‘Connecting Communities’ programme will see some of the successful BAB projects expanded to North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, as part of community-led approaches to improving health in older age. These models include bereavement peer support, integrated care clinics, social activities and group wellbeing sessions.

Towards an Age-Friendly Bristol

It’s also a time of progress for Age-Friendly Bristol, the BAB-led project which saw us working with the city office, the council, VCSE organisations and older citizens to create a strategy that secured the city’s membership of the WHO’s Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities and Communities in 2018. Coronavirus and other environmental changes have created new challenges and opportunities in improving  inclusion and reducing the health inequalities people experience as they age. This is why I’ve spent the last year working on a new iteration of our Age-Friendly Strategy, launched last week, which you can read below. This is complemented by an Action Plan, which sets out the detail of who’s leading on each age-friendly initiative, and I’ll be publishing an update on its progress later in the year.

We may be considered a young city – and indeed, older people do form a much lower proportion of the population than our neighbours across the rest of the south west. However to think that demographic ageing shouldn’t be a focus of Bristol’s long-term planning would be a mistake. The proportion of people aged over 75 in Bristol is set to grow by 40% by 2043, a greater percentage than for any other age cohort. Our older population is also increasingly diverse, and seeing older people as a homogenous group overlooks the experiences of older people of colour and older LGBT+ people.

All Bristolians are facing a future where they will reach pensionable age at an older age than the generation before them. We need to ensure the city can offer good jobs for all that protect workers’ health and wellbeing and provide equal opportunities to people throughout their working lives. The age-friendly goals align with the city’s other goals including zero-carbon, race equality, and economic renewal, and seek to ensure that what makes Bristol unique – our cultural institutions, the strength of our communities, and our green spaces to cite just a few examples – can be enjoyed by everyone growing older in our city.

Temple Cycles

Today’s blog is by Matthew Mears, Founder and CEO of Temple Cycles, one of the Bristol businesses who I have recently visited.

We are a Bristol based bicycle designer and maker and we make some of the world’s most beautiful and high quality bicycles at our production facility in Bedminster. We have an emphasis on making versatile bikes for touring, commuting and also gravel riding, with a strong emphasis on sustainability and making sure our bikes will become vintage. We’ve also now introduced some incredible electric bikes into the line-up.

Sustainability

Temple Cycles was started in 2015, born out of my lifelong passion for cycling and a dream of producing bicycles here in Bristol. Since the start, making high quality machines has been the objective and we want all of the bikes we make to become vintage someday. Too much of the bicycle market is geared around upgrading and replacing your bike every few years. We don’t agree with this and make products which will last a lifetime.

Sustainability of our products and production processes are very important to us. That’s why we only make bikes from 100% recycled steel. This means that our bikes have a very long product lifecycle. If they are properly looked after they will last over 30 years, and when they do reach the end of their time, they can easily be recycled. On top of this, we make sure all of our bikes are very easy to service, maintain and find spare parts for.

The pandemic

There has been a significant change in the way we do business since COVID-19 and Brexit. Supply chain disruption and shipping delays have added extra pressure on the business. We used to operate in a leaner way, holding less stock of parts and materials in the warehouse. Now we hold a higher proportion of this to make sure we have enough to keep production running if we get hit with unexpected or extra supply delays. The demand for our bikes has risen significantly though, as people look for green modes of transport. We only see this becoming more and more important, especially as our cities grow and cars are certainly not the best mobility solution. As governments invest more in cycling infrastructure, we’re excited to see how much of a cycling nation we can become.

Cycling in Bristol

Cycling in Bristol is fantastic. We’re really proud to be part of this cycling city, and we see more and more people on bikes each year. There is so much to do if you like to cycle, with great access to the surrounding countryside and Sustrans national cycle routes. There’s something for everyone here, including great mountain biking in Ashton Court, access to beautiful and quiet country roads, an improving network of cycle lanes, and hundreds of parks and green spaces within the city to cycle to.

We’re really excited to continue growing our business in Bristol and for what the coming years will bring, as our city transforms to become a vibrant ecosystem for sustainable mobility and active travel.

Warm Homes (Go for It)

Today’s blog is from Councillor Nicola Beech, Cabinet Member for Climate, Ecology, Energy, and Waste

Warmer Homes, Advice, and Money (WHAM) is an innovative project supporting Bristol residents living in fuel poverty and experiencing financial hardship.

WHAM brings together the Centre for Sustainable Energy, Talking Money, We Care Home Improvements, Bristol and North Somerset councils, Citizens Advice, Bristol Energy Network and AMS Electrical to provide a comprehensive service for vulnerable people. This includes accessing benefit entitlements, Warm Home discounts, home energy and insulation improvements, fuel vouchers, debt clearance, new heating, charitable grants, and moving onto cheaper tariffs.

WHAM has had an incredible impact so far, and has been held up as good practice by Ofgem and Public Health England. Since 2017, almost 3,500 households have are over £2 million better off through bill savings and financial/other support. It is one of many organisations who have been funded by our Bristol Impact Fund.

Many people are concerned about the cost of living crisis. Rising energy bills are part of a worsening picture, alongside Universal Credit cuts and below-inflation rises in pay and benefits. All will be compounded by the upcoming National Insurance hike.

But WHAM, with a waiting list of over 100 households, is not an emergency service. Instead, people struggling to make ends meet can access support for things like fuel bills, groceries, and school uniform through our Local Crisis Prevention Fund. We have also safeguarded the last Council Tax Reduction Scheme in the Core Cities, with some 40,000 families in our city receiving up to 100% off their council tax bills.

Bristol Energy Service also has some low-cost, handy tips on how to save energy.

Walking and cycling to boost health in south Bristol

Active travel, which includes cycling and walking, is a great way to take daily exercise and has a vital role to play in reducing congestion on local roads and tackling air pollution. It features in our Transport Strategy for Bristol, in which we set out our ambition to make walking the easy transport choice for our communities and to fully integrate cycling into the wider transport network, connecting people to jobs, schools, leisure and everyday facilities.

That’s why we are celebrating the news that we’ve been awarded £70,000 from the Department for Transport to design an active travel pilot to improve the health and wellbeing of people in south Bristol.

Our pilot will focus on three wards where there are comparatively low physical activity rates, including Filwood, Hartcliffe and Withywood, and Hengrove and Whitchurch Park.

The study, which will get underway soon, will look at the exercise needs of residents, what activities are available in the area, and who would benefit from being part of the trial. We’ll also review infrastructure across the area to see if there is anything stopping people from walking or cycling.

Our pilot project could see us offering one-to-one support, cycle centre courses, and group cycle rides and walks. Working with health and voluntary sector partners as well as local groups and charities, we will promote local walking and cycling routes, as well as provide training and bike maintenance courses, on top of low-cost bikes.

We are also looking to run taster sessions and fun days to promote all the ways local people can get involved with walking and cycling. Through the pilot, we’ll train more walk and cycle leaders as well as invest in bike storage and more bikes to loan out. Our aim is to give people the tools to be able to walk or cycle to maintain good health and make their journeys more pleasant experiences.

The study, which should be completed by the summer, will help us design a pilot scheme which, if successful, will provide a blueprint for us to introduce the active travel initiative to more of our local neighbourhoods.

Investing in active travel schemes will also help us as we work towards being carbon neutral by 2030. We all need to rethink how we travel, choosing more sustainable transport options. Walking and cycling are fantastic ways to reduce your own carbon footprint, and they have so many other benefits.

We’re looking forward to working with communities and partners in south Bristol to get people on their bikes and walking for a healthier and happier life.

HIV Testing Week

This week, to mark HIV Testing Week, Bristol has continued to lobby the Government for more support to continue our work to end new transmissions of HIV by 2030.

With Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health, I wrote to the Health and Social Care Secretary to call for opt-out testing in hospitals in our city to help diagnose people who unknowingly have HIV.

Read my letter to the Health and Social Care Secretary here, or scroll down for the plain text version.

Dear Secretary of State,

Like the Department of Health and Social Care, Bristol is committed to ending new cases of HIV by 2030 and contributing to the national effort to reach the 4,660 undiagnosed people living with HIV in England. This is why we welcome the Government’s HIV Action Plan and the £20 million being made available by NHS England for opt-out testing in very high prevalence HIV areas.

However, as a local authority with high HIV prevalence, we are concerned that funding opt-out testing only in “very high” prevalence areas is a missed opportunity. To meet the 2030 goal, and the Action Plan’s interim target of an 80 percent reduction in new diagnosis by 2025, the same kind of opt-out testing will be needed in hospitals here in Bristol too.

With those undiagnosed being twice as likely to live outside London, areas like Bristol are the new frontline in the quest for everyone to know their status. We are a Fast Track City, and we have been working with our local NHS partners, and both of our city’s hospitals are supportive of an opt out testing approach. However, we have no identified funding to roll out this approach. It is, therefore, vital that the DHSC and NHS England become a funding partner to make this happen and provide equity across all parts of the country.

Opt-out testing works, is cost effective, has been recommended by the British HIV Association and British Association of HIV and Sexual Health since 2016, and is included within current NICE guidelines on HIV testing. It is proven to find those with traditionally the worst HIV outcomes: people of Black African heritage, women and older people. More than two in five (42%) people diagnosed with HIV in England continue to get their diagnosis at a late stage – this can have serious consequences for their own health and the health of others through unknowingly passing on the virus. These populations experience some of the highest rates of late diagnosis.

Anyone with undiagnosed HIV leaving A&E without knowing their status is a missed opportunity and likely means they will present with a HIV complication at a later date and add additional cost to the system. The HIV Commission – which the government promised to implement – made this its flagship recommendation.

This National HIV Testing Week we are reminded of the need to level up our HIV ambition and testing infrastructure. There is much we can learn from successful HIV interventions in London, but we will only meet the 2030 goal as one country. Just funding opt-out testing in the very highest prevalence areas will not end new HIV transmissions, and we urge the government to consider funding areas like Bristol to reduce stigma, and ensure that we can support everyone living with HIV in Bristol.

Delivering funding by World Aids Day 2022 would help us get opt-out testing in Bristol hospitals up and running as soon as possible. There can be no further delay.

Yours sincerely,

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol

Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities and Bristol One City

Children’s Mental Health Week

Today’s blog is by Ivan Powell, Chair of the Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership

This week marks Children’s Mental Health Week. The theme for 2022 is ‘Growing Together’: helping children to grow emotionally and finding ways for them to help each other grow as well.

‘Growing Together’ feels like a particularly relevant theme after the challenges and adversity that our children and young people have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus exacerbated existing inequalities, reduced vital resources and supportive pathways, and forced our children and young people to adapt, be flexible, and become activists for their own development. In the wider community, people also continue to struggle with their mental health, financial difficulties, and domestic abuse.

The Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership launched the Are You OK? campaign back in 2020. The campaign focuses on helping people find the support they need as well as offering information about services, either for direct support or for advice, during the pandemic. Its key message is simple: let’s all look out for one another, and keep an eye on our friends, family, and neighbours, particularly through tough times.

During the height of the pandemic, we held a workshop to understand the impact of COVID-19 on children and young people’s mental health. Today, to support Children’s Mental Health Week, we’re promoting the services that can support children and young people the most, at times when things are overwhelming or not OK at home, and they don’t know who to turn to. Resources such as Children’s Mental Health Week’s website are invaluable for children and young people, but also parents, carers and school and youth groups.

We are committed to continuing to listen and talk about mental health, as well as making sure the support is there when people need it the most, to help our children and young people feel safe and make sure they are given the right support to grow into happy and confident adults. Later in March 2022, we will be launching participation guidance within education and youth settings across the city, to encourage children and young people’s voices to be heard in the conversation about health and sex education, as well as the personal, health and social education curriculum.

Find out more about how to spot the signs that someone might be struggling, and the local support services that are available on the Are You OK?, which is part of the Keeping Bristol Safe Partnership, including a specific page for Children/Families on their website, and through local organisations including Off The Record.

Bearpit necessities

Artist’s illustration of what the green roofs and walls could look like in the Bearpit when works are complete

Bristol has ambitious goals for ecology and wildlife in our city, but this can be challenging in urban settings. We’ve been working to bring nature and green walls to as many places as possible, and now we can share news of a project to bring pollinators to the St James Barton roundabout (AKA the Bearpit).

Our priority has been to make the Bearpit a safe place for everyone. We saw a reduction in crime and anti-social behaviour of three quarters after we took action in September 2019. We are now able to share more about the work we’re doing to wild the Bearpit, which is a continuation of the improvement works there, as well as supporting our citywide ecological strategy and aims.

This week we commenced a four-week programme to create green roofs on the former toilet blocks, turning them into wildflower meadows. The native flowers will add to the biodiversity and attract pollinators, in a space dominated by concrete and busy roads. They will have a waterproof layer, topped with a recycled stone substrate layer and then sown with a wildflower meadow seed. Once it grows, it will become a mix of colourful native wildflowers and grasses, which are low maintenance, and drought tolerant to minimise water consumption and be resilient to climate change.

We have also worked on the raised terrace planting, with the Bristol Parks team having removed the weeds as well as litter and graffiti. The timber walls are being re-stained and timber seat tops replaced with sustainable oak timbers. The existing pollinator-friendly planting along the walls has been retained and pruned. In the retained existing soil, we are adding new wildflower meadow turf and meadow seed will be sown in the spring. There will be new native trees planted, with spring-flowering bulbs planted into the meadow areas. The planted terraces are being maintained by Bristol City Council.

These elements contribute to us delivering the Ecological Emergency Action Plan goals, including the aims of ‘Meadow Bristol’, by creating new wildflower meadow habitats and our commitment to ‘Green Infrastructure’ and managing green spaces to increase biodiversity within the heart of the city.

This is round two in the fight to make the Bearpit a safe space for everyone and an area with pollinators, wildlife and colour.

World AIDS Day 2021

Today’s blog is by Aled Osborne, Community Engagement Manager at Brigstowe.

World AIDS Day is an annual event held on 1 December. It is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.

End inequalities. End AIDS. End pandemics.

This World AIDS Day, UNAIDS is highlighting the urgent need to end the inequalities that drive AIDS and other pandemics around the world. Without bold action against inequalities, the world risks missing the target to end HIV transmission by 2030, as well as a prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and a spiralling social and economic crisis. Economic, social, cultural, and legal inequalities must be ended as a matter of urgency if we are to end HIV transmissions and HIV stigma by 2030.

Although there is a perception that a time of crisis is not the right time to prioritise tackling underlying social injustices, it is clear that without doing so the crisis cannot be overcome.

AIDS- “Don’t die of ignorance”, Tombstones, “Gay Virus”, “AIDS is the wrath of God”, for many, are the first things that still come to mind when we talk about HIV. These campaigns, adverts and rhetoric were all too common in the 80’s and 90’s and have probably been the most effective marketing campaigns this country has seen.

Tackling stigma

It’s 40 years since the first diagnosed case of HIV and although we have seen incredible medical advancements, social attitudes still very much remain in the past. We live in Space Age times with some Stone Age minds. Stigma and discrimination are the biggest challenges people living with HIV still face. One in three people living with HIV have faced discrimination. Stigma can have a huge impact on people’s lives. It can prevent people from getting tested and for people living with HIV it can prevent them from taking their life-saving medication, lose family and relationships, lose jobs, be put last on surgery and other medical appointment lists, and prevent them from feeling connected in their local community. These are among the many reasons people living with HIV in the UK are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression.

It is a very exciting time for work ending HIV in Bristol. As well as being a part of the Fast Track Cities Initiative, a global movement bringing city partners and the public together to accelerate our work towards ending HIV, we also have two ground breaking projects happening. Common Ambition Bristol is a major three-year community empowered project led by Brigstowe and African Voices Forum working with African and Caribbean heritage communities in Bristol to reduce HIV diagnosis, stigma and generally improve sexual health. We also have Hearts and Minds, a collaborative community project finding new ways to reduce HIV related stigma in healthcare. This is being facilitated by Catherine Dodds, a long standing HIV researcher from University of Bristol and Rising Arts Agency.

Did you know?

  • U=U. Undetectable=Untransmittable. This means people living with HIV on effective treatment cannot pass the virus onto their sexual partners.
  • Babies without HIV can be born to parents with HIV.
  • One third of people living with HIV in the UK are women.
  • The numbers of people being diagnosed with HIV through heterosexual sex is the same as the number being diagnosed through men having sex with men.
  • You cannot acquire HIV through saliva or sharing cutlery, toothbrushes and towels.

In 2021, these messages and information is what needs to be shared.

Show your support

There are many things you can do this World AIDS Day to show your support.

  1. Attend Bristol’s World Aids Day vigil on Wednesday 1 December at 6.30pm.
  2. Wear a Red Ribbon and wear it with pride!
  3. Donate £10 to Brigstowe so they can continue their vital work – text HIV to 70085
  4. If you are passing Bristol Temple Meads, Ashton Gate Stadium, or City Hall on 1 December then take a picture of the buildings illuminated red and share on social media tagging Brigstowe

For more information on the work Brigstowe do and the support they provide, please visit www.brigstowe.org

Omicron

I want to start today’s blog with a thank you, to all of our Bristol residents for your continued efforts to help prevent the transmission of COVID-19 and protect our communities in Bristol. Many of you have continued to wear your face covering on public transport and when shopping; kept washing your hands frequently; and balanced your own risks to protect yourself, our frontline workers, and your friends and family.

The virus is still circulating as we head into another tough winter for our NHS and social care keyworkers, and infection rates in Bristol remain high. With the new COVID-19 Omicron variant, first identified by scientists in South Africa, we are now fighting on another front.

In October, we took a united, joined up Bristol position, encouraging and expecting Bristolians to continue with the public health behaviours we have become so accustomed to over the last two years. And with national rules back in force today to prevent the spread of the Omicron variant and save lives, I want to emphasise the importance of these behaviours in keeping our lives open and full of activity and opportunity.

Remember:

  • If you are unwell, recover at home, and do not go into work or visit vulnerable friends and family members. Even if you have mild cold-like symptoms, this could be very serious for someone else, and you don’t know if you might also be carrying COVID-19.
  • If you have symptoms of COVID-19, or test positive after taking a lateral flow (rapid) test, self-isolate at home and book a PCR test to confirm the result. Lateral flow tests should be taken before you undertake any potentially risky activity, such as attending a sports match at a stadium or visiting a vulnerable family member.
  • Ventilation and fresh air are still as important as ever, and while I recognise it is more challenging in the colder weather, even opening your windows for 10-15 minutes at a time can have a real impact.
  • Other countries of course have their own COVID-19 rules, including proof of a negative test and proof of vaccination. If you are planning to travel in the next few weeks and months, I urge to you plan ahead for all possibilities, including if you or someone in your party becomes unwell and you need to find somewhere to self-isolate, and further changes to national travel guidance.
  • Vaccination is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and our children against ill health, and against new variants of the virus. So, if you’re already eligible for your COVID-19 booster or flu jab, do not delay in booking your appointment. The more people who have their vaccinations, the better our protection against ill health.

These precautionary measures will help us to keep life moving, to support our businesses to stay open and to keep life moving for everyone.

We are kind. We are safe. We are Bristol.