Pupils showcase their work as ‘Youth Health Leaders’ in partnership with Blackpool Health Trust

Sharon Vickers (third from right) with pupils from Fylde coast school and staff from Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust at St Mary’s Catholic Academy

School pupils gave impressive presentations to fellow students about an initiative designed to help improve the health and wellbeing of their peers.

The ‘Youth Health Leaders Day’ at St Mary’s Catholic Academy and Sixth Form in Blackpool on July 10, celebrated the ‘Youth Health Leaders’ project which is led by Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Hospital staff, including doctors, nurses, senior managers, a dental educator and a pharmacist, congratulated the pupils on their work as Youth Health Leaders and spoke about the job opportunities within the NHS on the Fylde coast.

The Youth Health Leaders programme, which has been running for two years at St Mary’s, was set up by Sharon Vickers, who is a Practice Development Sister at the Trust.  It was designed to encourage young people to champion good health among their peers and spark interest in health care as a career.

Sharon Vickers said: “The whole purpose of the Youth Health Leaders programme is to encourage young people to take ownership of health in the local area.

“They help to promote better ways of living to other young people. The scheme gives them a connection with the hospital if they feel they would like to join the local NHS.

“We would like to have every secondary school in Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre signed up to this programme

“It was the first time that St Mary’s had hosted an event for the Youth Health Leaders and it was a huge success.

“St Mary’s also opened up the event to other schools including Carr Hill High School, Montgomery High School, St George’s High School, Rossall School, AKS Lytham Independent School, Millfield Academy, Aspire High School, Unity School and Lytham High School.

“They were invited as they had shown an interest in the Youth Health Leaders programme. They have been invited to a similar event at Blackpool Victoria Hospital on November 10.

“The Youth Health Leaders get to work with each other on problem solving and they keep up with local and regional studies on health related concerns.

“For example, when there is a drug like ‘Spice’ on the streets, they can promote awareness of the dangers of taking it to fellow pupils, friends and family.”

At the St Marys event, young doctors, Rasha Ibrahim and James Adams and clinical pharmacist, Hannah Sheridan, chatted with the pupils about the many and varied career opportunities within the Trust and the wider NHS.

Tracy Burrell, Assistant Director of Nursing and Quality for the Trust, also spoke to the pupils.

She said: “The Youth Health Leaders are hugely important to the Trust.

“Together we can support each other and our friends and families to make a real difference to how people feel and how people look after themselves.

“Some of the Youth Health Leaders may want to go into a career in the NHS and we want to help them to do so. There are more than 300 job options in the NHS; a huge amount of roles.”

St Mary’s is also the pilot school for the Trust’s new Health Academy scheme.

Tracy added: “Participating in the Health Academy can help you get into college, university or to take up an apprenticeship.

“There are many opportunities and being a Youth Health Leader and joining the Health Academy are the first steps on the journey.

“Working in the NHS is about touching the lives of other people and making a difference to people. What the young people learn here will help them for the rest of their lives.”

Sharon said the Youth Health Leaders programme was important because Blackpool has some of the worst youth health statistics in England.

She explained: “The Youth Health Leaders raise awareness of teenage pregnancy, alcohol and drug-related issues, obesity and such like.

“It’s purely a young people’s programme. They set the agenda. We work with them but they choose what they will look at and invite people to give talks.

“At the event we also ran a competition and St George’s High School won for their dental health presentation.

“I would like to say thank you to the Trust for releasing members of staff to talk at the event, to the new schools for coming along, to Simon Mitchell the Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) Education coordinator at St Mary’s and St Mary’s for hosting the event. I’d also like to say congratulations to St George’s on winning the trophy.”

For more information on the Youth Health Leaders programme, contact Sharon Vickers at Sharon.vickers@bfwhospitals.nhs.uk

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