Carol Elliott, Programme Manager of the SeaFit Programme explains how taking health services to the quayside and working in partnership with the NHS and other health providers has helped to increase access to healthcare for fishermen and their families in coastal areas around the UK.
The SeaFit Programme is a joint initiative run by the Fishermen’s Mission (TFM) and Seafarers Hospital Society (SHS). We work in partnership to provide health services at the quayside to improve the health and wellbeing of fishermen and their families.
Fishing remains one of the UK’s most dangerous professions taking a toll on the physical and mental health of those in the industry. SeaFit was set up having identified that fishermen find it difficult to make and keep pre-booked health appointments. They can’t plan for time off because the weather, tides, and fish locations dictate when they need to be out at sea. If they are not at sea, they are not earning a living.
There is also a traditional expectation to be strong and resilient which means many won’t seek out medical help. I’ve had many fishermen tell me that it was their wife or partner who kept on that them to get help.
The mobile health events, use an assets-based model of flexible healthcare, taking services to the quayside, delivered and adapted to the local environment. We’ve provided free dental checks and immediate treatment through Dentaid Charity and Smile Together. There have also been free liver checks with the Eastern Liver Network and again several referrals made to GPs for non-diagnosed liver conditions. Every event is different, we invite existing local services to provide health information, for example: Macmillan Cancer Support, Seafood Cornwall Training, Barclays Mobile Banking, Oddballs Testicular Cancer, Energy Advice, Prostate Cancer UK, etc.
SeaFit includes a range of initiatives in addition to the mobile health events, we have Healthy Lifestyle Advisors from Healthy Cornwall based in Newlyn, Healthtrainers from the Humber Teaching NHS Foundation Trust on the Yorkshire Coast, and a third in Aberdeenshire from LiveLife Aberdeenshire. They provide free NHS Health Checks and other support such as stopping smoking, reducing alcohol, weight management and much more. Several fishermen have been fast-tracked for urgent referrals to their GP for high blood pressure readings.
We also provide access to mental health and wellbeing support in Cornwall, Norfolk and Suffolk and have a network of physiotherapists trained to meet the specific needs of fishermen.