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Baroness Grey-Thompson puts forward £1 billion case for leisure centre regeneration

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson has appeared on the BBC’s Daily Politics show putting forward the case for a £1billion regeneration of leisure centres.

The crossbench peer recorded a two-minute film at Everyone Active’s The Castle Centre in central London, calling for an ambitious ‘joined-up approach’ to health delivery, which would see the redevelopment of 1970s-era leisure centres to include GP drop-in centres, libraries and police stations.

In the film Baroness Grey-Thompson pointed out that physical inactivity costs the UK £20bn per year. She said: "We spend almost £120bn a year on the NHS in England alone, and the financial strain on our health service is only going to get worse. I believe if we spend more of our time and resources on prevention, we could dramatically reduce this pressure on the health budget.”

Redeveloping ageing leisure centres to make them a one-stop-shop would save the country money, according to Baroness Grey-Thompson, who is chair of ukactive.

She said: "Doctors could prescribe exercise plans for patients, allowing a more joined-up approach where they could work with fitness instructors. It's win-win. Patients are helped to become fitter, and further down the line the NHS won't have to pick up the tab for people's unhealthy lifestyles. These refurbishments would mean an investment of around £1bn, no small sum, but a drop in the ocean when compared to the cost to the NHS of a full-blown inactivity epidemic. It's time to empower people to take responsibility for their own health.”

The multiple Paralympic gold medalist also discussed the idea with MPs Damian Collins and Yvette Cooper in the studio on the lunchtime programme.

Baroness Grey-Thompson said: "One in six deaths in this country relate to inactivity. The NHS is not sustainable in its current format. It has to be about prevention rather than cure. It is important what we eat but it has to go hand in hand with physical activity as well. People need to take more responsibility for their health and wellbeing. It has to start at a much younger age as well.”

Collins, a Conservative MP for Folkestone and Hythe, agreed with the life peer that plans would save the NHS cash, but said: "We spend a lot of money on sport in this country already. The question is where that [£1bn] investment comes from.

"There is a lot of good work that is going on but one key thing is getting more people to use the facilities.”

ukactive is urging the Government to replace 1970s-era leisure centres with community wellness hubs. These would combine swimming pools, gyms and sports halls, with GP drop-in centres, libraries and police services, to create a one-stop-shop for public services. The call for £1bn investment formed part of ukactive's blueprint for an Active Britain, which was released last week at the ukactive National Summit in Westminster.