Health minister’s care call
Health Minister Matt Hancock joins in a Wave Project session in Newquay. PICTURE: PAUL WILLIAMS
26th May 2021
By Warren Wilkins
The Health Secretary hit the waves in Newquay to experience first-hand how a surf therapy charity has been helping vulnerable children.
Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, donned a wetsuit to take part in a Wave Project session at Towan Beach on Monday night.
He splashed into the water to learn more about the benefits of surf therapy for young people’s mental well-being. alongside 12 children who regularly go to The Wave Project.
Mr Hancock was told surfing, combined with mentoring and support from volunteers, helps children to feel more confident, less anxious and more resilient.
The Wave Project is the first charity in the world to offer “surfing on prescription” through the NHS after the Government recognised the role learning to surf can play in mental health.
Mr Hancock said: “I think the Wave Project is brilliant because it uses what Cornwall has like great beaches here in Newquay to support children and help them grow in confidence.
“Being out there setting the children off on a wave and seeing them being able to pop up, it brings a smile to their face.
“I know there has been serious impact on young people’s mental well-being and mental health because of lockdown and we have got to do everything we can to support them.
“The NHS is helping through what is called social prescribing where they prescribe exercise, for example, and being outdoors and of course surfing is both exercise and outdoors.”
Newquay MP Steve Double, who is Matt Hancock’s Parliamentary private secretary, joined him in the surf for the Wave Project session.
Mr Double said: “I’m delighted Matt has been able to see the sessions the Wave Project provide to help local vulnerable young people during his trip to Cornwall.
“The UK NHS is I believe the first national health service to recognise the value that teaching children to surf helps both their physical and mental health well-being. It is great that the secretary of state can see the work they do.”
Joe Taylor, the founder and chief executive of the Wave Project, said: “It was a huge honour to welcome the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care to experience the benefits of surf therapy first-hand.
“We’re proud to be the first charity to offer surfing on prescription via the NHS, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with NHS trusts going forward as part of the broader focus on social prescribing services.”
Of his Cornish visit, Mr Hancock said: “I’m here to meet the new Conservative-led Cornwall Council to talk about how we can work in an integrated way between the council and the NHS across Cornwall to improve the health of people throughout Cornwall.
“We are investing a lot in the NHS, but we want to make sure that council services and NHS services are more closely integrated together.”
Ahead of a pit-stop in St Austell, Mr Hancock visited the Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust where he heard about the recent and ongoing investment in the hospital’s infrastructure including plans for a building for women’s and children’s care which includes maternity, neonatal and paediatrics.
Royal Cornwall Hospital is part of the Government’s Hospital Infrastructure Plan (HIP).
Last year, the Prime Minister announced the details of 40 new hospitals which he said would be built by 2030, backed by an initial £3.7 billion.
Mr Hancock was shown the site where the construction of new inpatient, outpatient and diagnostic facilities – which will form part of the new MRI and oncology unit – is under way as well as the progressive recovery unit.
Both schemes will release space for future development.
While in Truro, he was given a tour of the works under way by chief executive of Royal Cornwall Hospitals Trust (RCHT), Kate Shields.
She told the Voice Mr Hancock had been impressed by what he had seen: “We tried to impress him even further, so the women’s and children’s business case definitely moves as quickly as possible.”