Swim England

A nation swimming

Swim Together pilot aims to reduce barriers to swimming participation

Swim England is piloting a new swim session in Leamington Spa, that is aimed at people who might see swimming as a barrier to helping them achieve better health and wellbeing.

The ‘Swim Together’ scheme has been developed in collaboration with Leamington Primary Care Network (PCN), Mental Health Swims and Everyone Active in Leamington Spa which aims to help increase the diversity within the swimming community by making peer support accessible to a whole new group of people.

It was formed following discussions between Royal College of GPs Physical Activity Clinical Champion, Hussain Alzubaidi, Managing Director of Mental Health Swims – Rachel Ashe and Swim England, following the release of recent England Swims research and launch of the Swimming as Medicine campaign.

It expands on the concept developed by Mental Health Swims who train and support a network of volunteer outdoor swim hosts to facilitate mental health peer support group ‘meetups’ across the UK.

Since it’s inception, there are now more than 150 outdoor groups across the nation and this pilot will see the concept taken into indoor leisure centres and pools for the first time.

With the expansion, it hopes to reach those individuals who find swimming indoors more accessible and people who may not be confident enough to join an outdoor swimming group or even turn up to a local pool alone.

The first sessions will start at the end of April and will be held in the pool at Everyone Active’s Newbold Comyn Leisure Centre, a Water Wellbeing accredited facility in Leamington Spa.

Participants will be identified through the PCN’s social prescribing service, after a discussion with a GP or other healthcare professional, followed by a referral to a social prescribing link worker, who would identify the individuals needs and barriers to swimming.

Evaluation of these pilot sessions will help inform how similar initiatives can be delivered both locally and across the country in partnership with local health agencies and leisure providers, supported through a framework for delivery, with training and support through Mental Health Swims.

‘Sharing expertise to support our community’

Rachel Ashe, Managing Director of Mental Health Swims, explains the impact these sessions can have on people’s health: “Mental Health Swims make it easier for people who live with mental illness to join in. So this pilot is a perfect opportunity to bring the same experience to indoor pools.

“Our volunteer training is unique because we have been built with lived experience being at the heart of everything we do.

“The ‘meetups’ will provide the chance for participants to enjoy unstructured time in the pool; a time to float, to walk in the water or just get to know what to expect for next time.

“We hope these sessions will help make visiting a leisure centre feel less intimidating, especially if you are afraid to go on your own.”

Hussain Alzubaidi, who is also a GP and social prescribing lead at Leamington PCN added: “Promoting accessible forms of physical activity is vital now more than ever.

“I see daily the impact that a lack of movement has on people’s lives. Working in collaboration with Swim England, Mental health Swims and Everyone Active has allowed us to share expertise and resources to support our community. Without our partners we simply would not have been able to get this off the ground!”

For more information on this or other aspects of Swim England’s health and wellbeing work contact health@swimming.org.

Hussain Al-Zubaidi, Joanna Fleming And Loretta Nwosu