A UNIQUE project helping mentally ill young people in Worcestershire get active has been picked to be part of a national programme looking at new ways to improve healthcare.

The SHAPE – Supporting Health and Promoting Exercise – scheme is one of just 23 initiatives chosen to be part of the Health Foundation’s Shine programme, which includes a £75,000 grant.

SHAPE, which is run by a partnership of Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust, the University of Worcester, Worcestershire County Council and South Worcestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, helps young people with psychosis or bipolar disorder stay fit and lead more healthy lifestyles.

The 12-week programme is run from the McClelland Centre for Health and Wellbeing at the university’s city campus and participants are also given a free year-long membership of the gym if they want to continue working out.

Consultant psychologist and early intervention lead with Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust’s Professor Jo Smith said young people with mental illnesses were at much higher risk than their peers of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“Some of this is related to lifestyle in that they are more likely to be cigarette smokers, tend to have poorer diets and can lead more sedentary lifestyles, and some is related to the medications that are used to treat their psychosis which can lead to weight gain and other metabolic changes,” she said.

“We know from emerging research evidence internationally that if we make young people aware of this right from the start we can encourage them to start addressing these lifestyle factors as well as encouraging them to eat well and keep active.

“This is the rationale behind our SHAPE initiative here in Worcestershire.

“We are one of the first health services in the UK and internationally to do something like this.”

There are more than 60 new cases of a first episode of psychosis in Worcestershire every year and SHAPE is available to all young people falling under this banner.

Manager of the McClelland Centre and head of the university’s applied social science academic unit Briony Williams describe SHAPE as “an exciting venture”.

“McClelland Centre staff are experienced at delivering supported lifestyle change that involves health measurement, group exercise and nutrition advice,” she said.

“The project will provide valuable placement opportunities for University of Worcester students.”

For more information call 01905 760 000 or visit www.hacw.nhs.uk.