AN innovative project is encouraging Halton residents to improve their health by taking positive action instead of swallowing pills and potions.

Patients are being given the chance to feel better by joining various community initiatives.

Doctors who now run Halton’s NHS services have set up wellbeing practices in seven GP surgeries across Widnes and Runcorn. The scheme, the first of its kind in the UK, will soon be rolled out to all 17 practices.

Simon Banks, chief executive of Halton Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “This is the most innovative thing in my career in the NHS.

“Our vision is that health is about everything we do. It is an holistic approach.”

Some obese patients are being offered fruit and vegetables on prescription, with courses on healthy eating.

People suffering from stress are being encouraged to talk about their problems with professionals.

Mr Banks said: “One man came in depressed and asked for anti-depressants. He left with support around debt counselling and other aspects of his life which didn’t need medication.

“We are tryng to identify the underlying causes.

“Another gentleman had become stuck in his home because of dementia.

“He used to enjoy cycling but couldn’t go out because he kept getting lost. We put him in touch with a local cycling club who now picks him up and drops him off at home. It gets him out and about and he is not as depressed.

“Once people are given the chance to create friendship groups, they can continue them without a great deal of support.

“It is positive and proactive way to make people healthy.”