On Saturday, Sir Peter Dixon, Chair of Diabetes UK, opened Preston’s 15th Annual Health Mela held at the University of Central Lancashire. After touring the exhibition and meeting visitors and exhibitors he expressed his view that the event was a splendid model demonstrating the huge benefits to be gained when health professionals, members of the public and voluntary bodies come together to make the most efficient use of national health resources. He praised the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing for its pioneering work and offered his support in its programme to extend the range of Health Melas both regionally and nationally.

At the Breakfast Meeting which preceded the formal opening ceremony, over 50 local health professionals, including senior representatives from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust, Lancashire Care Foundation Trust and Greater Preston Clinical Commissioning Group, talked with Sir Peter about some of the problems associated with the ever increasing incidence of Type 2 diabetes. Much of the discussion centred on the provision of appropriate community based intervention.
Around 1500 visitors took advantage of the excellent facilities provided in the University of Central Lancashire Foster Building to look around the many attractions on show at this stimulating and thought provoking event.

The Mela this year was bigger and better than ever with over 75 stalls providing information and advice on health related topics ranging from acupuncture to rheumatology. Visitors found so many things to do, see and experience. 27 tried out a relaxing session of Reiki and many talked informally with Governors of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals about their experiences and concerns. Children made healthy refreshing drinks on the smoothie bike, tried their hand at bandaging an injured teddy bear and enjoyed the colourful dance performance.

Central to the day’s event, the comprehensive Health MOT programme offered visitors a wide range of tests including measurement of cholesterol and blood sugar levels alongside sight, hearing and oral health checks. The MOT programme was enthusiastically supported by staff from Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust together with health faculty students from UCLan and the University of Manchester.

The Health Mela demonstrated yet again the value of providing informal health checks In a friendly, non-threatening environment. In total around 300 visitors took this opportunity, and no fewer than 144 were offered personal counselling with the option, where appropriate, of referral to their GP practice for a follow up consultation.

Reflecting on the day, Professor Romesh Gupta, OBE, Chair of NFHW and the organising committee, said,
‘Now more than ever, we need to make the very best use of our precious NHS resources. NFHW has always firmly believed that an essential way to do this is by providing a friendly, informal setting in which health professionals, voluntary bodies, NHS organisations and individuals can mutually address health related issues and tackle problems at an early stage and in the community. We are delighted that so many organisations share our view and we acknowledge the support we have had for this, our 15th. Health Mela, from our local NHS Trusts, Community Groups and Voluntary Bodies. Finally but not least, we are also grateful to the support we have received from UCLan. They not only provided the excellent venue and flawless logistical support essential to the success of a venture on this scale but committed the enthusiastic support of their health faculty students and volunteers to ensure the success of the event.’