Patients in Northumberland have been finding a new sense of purpose thanks to a pioneering cycling project.
Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) has teamed up with Bike 4 Health, a company on a mission to make bikes part of everyday life, to promote the wellbeing of service users on Newton Ward at St George’s Park, Morpeth.
The project, which came about when one service user said he missed the camaraderie of going to work, has seen patients take part in a range of activities such as clearing cycle paths, going on bike rides and fixing bikes in the workshop.
Working with Bike 4 Health on creating a cycle path for children made patients want to get on bikes themselves, enabling them to gain confidence and take ownership of something.
Part of CNTW, a provider of mental health and learning disability services, Newton Ward is a high dependency unit for men with serious mental illness who require intensive rehabilitation.
Pauline Brennan, an occupational therapist on the ward, said: “Our patients can often be difficult to engage; a lot of them have been in services for a long time and have lost hope.
“We work with them on small, everyday things like getting out of bed, having a shower and taking their medication. My belief is that if you can find something that patients are passionate about, something that makes them get out of bed, the other basics will come.
“Working with Bike 4 Health has empowered patients, making them feel valued and like they are contributing to something.”
Bike 4 Health starts by building bike confidence in a safe space, offering support and guidance to those who need it. It aims to promote physical and mental wellbeing and bring people together through a range of cycling activities.
The organisation works to get people bike ready and in a position where they could independently go for a cycle or join a cycling club.
Dave Buchan, founder of Bike 4 Health, said: “As a teenager with low confidence and little direction, cycling helped me find my feet.
“Cycling is a phenomenal tool for wellbeing and recovery and I’m so pleased I’ve been able to turn my passion into something that can help people from all walks of life who may feel they have lost their way.”
Thanks to the initial success of the collaboration, Pauline is hoping to secure funding which will allow CNTW’s work with Bike 4 Health to continue. The funding will hopefully mean other inpatients in the Trust will be able to access the project. The project has been paid for by the Trust’s Charitable Funds Committee.
The impact the project has had so far on service users has been extremely positive, with one patient’s symptoms of psychosis being significantly reduced after a bike ride.
Pauline added: “It’s been really great working with Bike 4 Health and we hope we’ll be able to continue our collaboration. Service users and staff going on bike rides together has broken down barriers and we’ve all been able to enjoy our time together.
“There are plans for us to do a bike ride to Newbiggin and one service user is hoping to do the Coast to Coast ride this summer.”
To find out more about Bike 4 Health and the different projects they offer call 0191 250 9357 or email [email protected]
To find out more about CNTW’s SHINE Fund, please see here.
*Please note that the photos for this piece were taken before social distancing measures were in place.