By Steven Salter

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal visited Sedgemoor Auction Centre at Junction 24, Bridgwater on October 15.

During her visit, The Princess Royal opened the Derek Mead Health Room, a free health clinic for farmers and agricultural workers. This clinic not only offers physical health checks to these individuals, but also provides mental and emotional support to anyone in need of help.

The Health Room is open every second and fourth Saturday of each month. On these busy market days, an NHS nurse is on-hand to carry out essential health checks such as blood pressure monitoring, and blood sugar testing, whilst also offering support for mental health concerns. Farmers can pop into the clinic, which is conveniently located next to the auction ring, with no prior appointment and speak to a nurse in confidence.

South West Farmer:

Katherine Hawke, director of Junction 24 and chairwoman of The Derek Mead Health Room Committee, says: “We opened the Derek Mead Health Room in memory of my father. He was well known in the farming community and was a passionate advocate in the efforts to provide farmers with the care and support they need. He always believed that more could be done for the farming community and that health care, especially, needs to be more accessible.”

“We were delighted to welcome Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal to visit the Health Room so we could show her, first hand, the efforts that are being made to offer the very best support and care to this incredible group of hard working men and women.”

South West Farmer:

The Princess Royal’s visit also entailed a tour of Sedgemoor Auction Centre: Europe’s largest livestock market, a brief experience of a live auction and a one-on-one meeting with the NHS nurses and volunteers who have made the health room possible.

HRH Princess Anne said: “I would like to congratulate the Mead family on this idea and developing this facility.

“I have a suspicion that other auction markets would wish to follow your example, and it is important as quite often reaching the farming community can be a major challenge.”

Belinda Bennett, Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s community nurse team manager and lead nurse for the Derek Mead Health Room, says: “The Derek Mead Health Room has been a huge success and is making a real difference to farmers across the South West and beyond.

“We know that farmers can live and work in isolated communities and we are proud that we are helping people who may not otherwise access healthcare services.

"We have had 361 patients come in since opening and made 62 referrals to GPs from people visiting.

“We also have been surprised by the number of female farm workers that have come in.

“It is important we help with mental health issues too.

“Farmers are often working long days in isolation, and are subject to uncertain factors such as the weather for their livelihoods.”

Chloe Hall, a nurse who helps at the clinic added: “We have people from far and wide visit, as far away as Cornwall, Ireland, Cumbria and Wales.

“What we do here is good old fashioned nursing based on communication.

“Because we are not led by figures we can often take a bit of extra time to listen and give advice.”

South West Farmer:

The Health Room has been set up thanks to the support of various local bodies, who have formed the Health Room Committee. This includes, Junction 24, The Weston Lions Club, Taunton & Somerset and Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trusts, The Farming Community Network (FCN), Bridgwater Agricultural Society, The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), Mole Valley Farmers, Hewish, Puxton & Wick St Lawrence Harvest Home, Greenslade Taylor Hunt and Puxton Park.

Originally published in the Bridgwater Mercury

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