Knowledge is power but sharing is even more powerful

CHEX visit to Wester Hailes reflects the power of shared learning.

Elspeth Gracey

Back in November 2017 we held our Annual National Conference in Edinburgh. Following a presentation from one of our key speakers, Linda Arthur of Wester Hailes Health Agency, several people expressed an interest in visiting the centre to see Integration of a community-led health initiative with statutory Health and Social Care services.

On August 8th the organisation was celebrating 20 years of working in Wester Hailes and we were invited to take people along to their open day.

Five people from community and voluntary sector organisations were joined by one person from Scottish Government and another from an energy trust to see what happens in Wester Hailes and consider what the benefits would be for their own organisations or implications for their roles.

This small but enthusiastic group met with Linda Arthur, manager of the Health Agency, at the start of our visit. Linda gave a history of the organisation and identified key points which makes the inclusion of the organisation within the Healthy Living Centre so successful. She described her GP colleagues as:

“forward thinking with an ‘in-depth’ understanding of high social need”.

She identified,

“maintaining a focus on community need, partnership working, integrated working practices and location, is crucial to our success”.

The Health Agency provide a wide range of services including person-centred counselling, ‘food with dignity’, awareness of herbal medicine, community food growing initiatives e.g. edible estates, walking groups and much more. 

As part of the open day a very impressive barbeque, thanks to Tasting Change Wester Hailes, was provided with an extensive spread of vegetarian food.

The visit included a tour of the building which is designed specifically to maximise natural light and also incorporates native wood and other natural products in preference to artificial or ‘man made’ products.

We past multiple ranks of desks that house all the different professional disciplines giving us an insight into how much work is undertaken within the building.

To continuing our learning of Wester Hailes, a social history walk, led by highly knowledgeable and engaging Chairperson of the Health Agency Eoghan Howard, was given providing us with the context within which the work at the centre takes place. 

With an extra bonus Gordon MacDonald MSP and a few local residents joined us along the way, sharing their own stories of Wester Hailes. 


Feedback from our visit. 

In depth conversations were a feature of the day with a constant flow of advice and information between participants, and local information from our hosts, which led to a highly informative and enjoyable day. Participants provided a written evaluation which reflected not only what they had gained from being there,

“Encouragement from someone who is doing what we wish to do”

“Giving me confidence to continue in what we are trying to do in our community”

But also the appetite for more,

“Even more time at the Centre would have been great”

At the outset of our visit we had asked participants to choose pictures which reflected their mood in anticipation of the visit.

We asked again at the end of the afternoon and one participant chose two pictures, Irene from Brechin Healthcare Group which summed up her day in the following way.

“When I arrived this morning I felt discouraged and ready to give up. Now I feel encouraged and inspired and it has given me heart.”

Further evidence of expanding the knowledge of participants is shown in our before and after visit evaluation. 

Keep up to date with The Health Agency through their Facebook page. 

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