The story of Britain’s pools and leisure centres is one of neglect, decay and the lies of levelling up

As the NHS buckles and public health plunges, our cheap and accessible fitness facilities are being shuttered.

In all the noise generated by the collapse of the NHS, you hear one refrain over and over again. The basic point is so obvious as to be almost banal: as the chaos deepens, it is a reminder not only of how much the health service has been underfunded and neglected, but of the UK’s deep problems with the questions of disease prevention, lifestyle and nutrition bundled up in the term public health.

Doctors I have spoken to recently have explained the grim experience of seeing the same patients come in and out of their wards for years. We are all familiar with that litany of conditions that account for so many admissions – diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure – and the fact that they are often rooted in obesity, sedentary ways of living, bad diets and all the rest. Behind older people’s falls and fractures, moreover, lie many of the same factors. Once again, the necessity of a more preventive approach to health is screamingly clear, but what it might mean in practice is still largely a mystery.

Clearly, this is a country that needs to get better at looking after itself. But while glaring facts about the intersection of poverty and ill health are serially ignored, public health is also hindered and damaged by a dismal failure to join up one area of policy with another. If you want particularly vivid proof of that very British syndrome, try this: as hospitals break and buckle, local leisure centres and swimming pools are also in the midst of crisis.

  • Original Article: The Guardian
  • Date: January 2023