A wellbeing hub on the High Street

This resource is part of a collection called 20-minute neighbourhood case studies.

Situated in the Dundas Shopping Centre in Middlesbrough, The Live Well Centre is a unique wellbeing hub offering a wide range of support so people can lead healthier, happier lives. 

It is an example of ‘health on the high street’ – a strategy that seeks to better embed health and access to services in the heart of places, where public transport links are generally better, and people spend time anyway. Projects like The Live Well Centre support diversification of high streets and town centres, helping them adapt and remain vibrant centres of the community despite a reduction in retail and increase in vacancy rates. 

The Live Well Centre provides an ‘under one roof’ approach to support peoples’ health in the broadest sense, from healthy cooking and fitness classes to sexual health services and diabetes checks. The centre offers an integrated model of health and wellbeing service provision for residents of Middlesbrough which allows tailored support to individuals, better information sharing, easier access to the right support and services working together more effectively. It is a one-stop shop to support people in changing their lives for the better across a full spectrum of challenges. 

Who and where?

Middlesbrough Council and partners

Middlesbrough, Teesdale

Features and Principles highlighted

  • community health and wellbeing facilities (Feature)
  • partnership and advocacy (Principle for success)

The challenge

Middlesbrough includes more areas that are deprived than affluent. Deprivation creates different life chances for people, often with detrimental effects on health and wellbeing that can lead to avoidable illness and premature death. Local risks to health include: 

  • social and economic conditions such as poverty, unemployment, poor housing, crime and lower educational attainment; 
  • lifestyle and behaviour factors such as smoking, binge drinking, lack of physical activity and poor nutrition; and 
  • insufficient use of, and inability to access services to prevent illness and support health. 

It was recognised in 2013 that the health and wellbeing of the local population could be improved by better co-ordination between organisations whose services are aimed at preventing illness, as well as organisations whose services have an impact on the social causes of ill health and premature death. 

At the same time, Middlesbrough city centre is facing challenges from high levels of vacant retail properties, the loss of key anchor stores like Marks and Spencer and competition from out of centre larger format retail. Middlesbrough Council recognise that diversification of the offer in the city centre is required, working in partnership with the public and private sector to create more reasons for people to visit and spend time in the city centre.

The solution

The Live Well Centre was launched in 2017 by Middlesbrough Council’s public health team. The vision was to offer people a wide-range of services under one roof, in a place people are familiar with and already go – a city centre shopping centre. The Council identified an empty building in the shopping centre, a former BT building, and worked to secure and outfit it to become The Live Well Centre wellbeing hub. 

Initially the Live Well Centre occupied four floors, but in 2019 expanded to five. People can drop in and meet with a member of the Live Well team who can help them explore what support they need and any barriers that they face. GPs and other service providers can also refer people into the Centre. 

In the first year more than 60,000 people used the Centre, and before the pandemic in 2020, the number of users doubled. 

Current services offering support at the Live Well Hub include: 

  • domestic abuse
  • homelessness 
  • substance abuse 
  • early years and ageing well services 
  • mental health, mindfulness and suicide prevention 
  • young person mental and health resilience training 
  • smoking cessation 
  • exercise classes and support sessions 
  • healthy eating and nutrition classes 
  • long COVID rehabilitation programme 
  • NHS clinics and checks eg. diabetes and healthy heart 
  • sexual health services 
  • debt management 

A key principle of how the Centre works is that to be effective there is a need for all the partners to ‘collaborate well’. Co-location supports collaboration and working in partnership. It allows a ‘no wrong door’, holistic approach to supporting the health and wellbeing of individuals, as individuals. 

The great thing is having all these services means that we do not have to send people away to different services. Most people can get the help they need at the Centre.

Kelly Melling, Strategic Asset and Business Development Manager, Public Health South Tees

The co-benefits of The Live Well Centre to the city centre and beyond are multiple. An empty unit in the shopping centre was brought back into active use – on some evenings until 8pm. The Centre encourages more people to visit and use the city centre, even those who may not have previously visited the city centre regularly to shop for example. The city centre is at the centre of public transport networks, which makes the services provided by the Live Well Centre more accessible to people, especially those that do not own cars. It may also help to reduce carbon emissions and congestion, as trips to more distant and less well-connected hospitals and facilities are reduced. 

Key lessons

  • Community health and wellbeing facilities (Feature)

Co-location of services, in mixed use areas, easy to reach by public transport is an effective way to increase access to and uptake of health and wellbeing services. The Centre provides a range of services under one roof so that it is easier for people to access the support they need to be healthier and happier. The joined-up approach means people can spend less time travelling between healthcare professionals and sites, with positive impacts on levels of congestion and pollution. 

An integrated model like The Live Well Centre can also play an important role in addressing health inequalities, offering much-needed additional capacity for health service delivery and attracting more people into the city centre, while encouraging healthier lifestyles. 

  • Partnership and advocacy (Principle for success)

Developing The Live Well Centre was only possible through partnership and collaboration. 

Partnerships developed quite organically due to the need for services and the enthusiasm of service providers willing to collaborate and make a service user’s journey easier and more effective. All service providers have the same goal ‘to help the residents of Middlesbrough’ which makes collaborative working so much easier.

Kelly Melling, Strategic Asset and Business Development Manager, Public Health South Tees

The Centre responds to a number of challenges facing Middlesbrough Council around health and beyond. The Centre seeks to create the conditions not only for lasting and sustainable change to people’s health but also the success and vibrancy of the city centre. 

This whole system approach to place and people is more likely to be successful and efficient in using the resources the Council has to meet it’s complex, modern challenges. 

What next?

The Live Well Centre has secured continued funding to work with other public sector organisations to help rationalise estates and see cost savings though sharing staff and premises. However, this only partially funds the Centre and an income stream from room hire is required. This is challenging in the current cost of living crisis, as many of the Centre’s tenants and customers are voluntary, social and community enterprises still struggling with funding post pandemic. The Live Well Centre is adapting to ensure the Centre can continue to run whilst also still meeting the needs of Middlesbrough residents. 

Plans are being developed to expand service delivery to other parts of the city by opening smaller hubs within areas of Middlesbrough recognised as including seldom heard groups and higher levels of deprivation so that residents can benefit from services closer to home. 

The Live Well Centre model is evolving in an attempt to address the town’s health inequalities, developing small integrated service hubs in Berwick Hills, Linthorpe and Hemlington.

Kelly Melling, Strategic Asset and Business Development Manager, Public Health South Tees

With thanks to Kelly Melling – Strategic Asset and Business Development Manager, Public Health South Tees.

See https://thelivewellcentre.co.uk/  for more information.