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Aquafit with Move More

Resistance to the proposed cut of four sport and health jobs at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is gathering pace, with a petition gaining over 100 signatures from people determined to save activities they see as ‘invaluable’ to their health.

The paper petition, circulated via groups of NHS patients involved in the ground-breaking Move More programme, is aimed at NHS Western Isles and at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, who jointly fund and manage the scheme.

Move More was initiated by Macmillan Cancer Support with a single post at Lewis Sports Centre, held by qualified sports coach and athlete Kirsty Wade. It’s since been augmented by two further posts in Uist and Barra and by another supporting patients at risk of diabetes.

All four jobs are reportedly to be axed from 31 May, when current contracts expire.

Last Wednesday (15 May) Comhairle nan Eilean Siar issued a statement contesting the NHS Western Isles position that the posts needed to be reviewed due to insufficient positive outcomes.

And participants in the scheme agree, citing their own experience of improved health and, in some cases, remission and recovery after completing their 12-week prescribed exercise programme.

Campaign co-ordinator Brenda Macleod said: “Those of us who were participating in the Move More programme learned that the classes will be closed at the end of this month due to lack of funding from the Health Board.

“The petition's purpose is to express dismay at the loss of a programme dedicated specifically to the recovery of those who have undergone cancer, surgery and conditions that impair physical strength and movement.

“All participants have had referrals from their GPs and designated members of the Sports Centre staff have been trained to deliver the programme.

“Not only have the twelve week group sessions made an invaluable contribution to everyone's physical recovery, but also to their mental well-being.  

“Many have gone on to become members of the Sports Centre, acknowledging the benefit of regular exercise in maintaining their
overall health.”

Classes run under the Move More programme include aquafit, supported gym use including apparatus in the TechnoGym, outdoor walking and gentle movement focussed on breathing and balance.  

Classes have been delivered at Lewis Sports Centre and in Tarbert, but some have also been delivered on Zoom.

Brenda said: “The petition has been set up to show that participants feel that the programme is an essential contribution to the overall health provision in the Western Isles.

“I have taken part in the programme, referred by my Macmillan nurse after two cancer operations and two bouts of chemotherapy. I am one of the number who has carried on beyond the 12-week session in the firm belief that routine exercise is important in prevention of recurrence of the disease.

“I have certainly felt the benefit of having an exercise routine added to each week.”

Other programme users described the funding decision as ‘extremely important’ and ‘a vital resource,’ adding that the exercise has been invaluable to their recovery and maintenance of health.

Last week Cllr Duncan Macinnes, depute leader of CnES, said: "Move More is a programme that has delivered successful outcomes to so many people across the Western Isles.

“The success of the programme has been outlined in the past by NHS Western Isles with the sharing of positive testimony from service users, clear examples of exactly what this service means to its users and why it is so essential.

“I welcome further discussions with NHS on this matter and encourage a change of position to ensure that this uncertainty does not turn into real negative impacts."