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Deputy CEO Blog: Reflecting On The New Free GP Drop-In Clinics

On the 12th May I had the pleasure of supporting the first of a series of Free GP Drop-In Clinics taking place across the coming six months and the experience really stuck with me. I’ve worked in the area since 2017 and pretty much since then have been aware of how much of a struggle it is for residents to get to see their local GP. I knew the basics, lots of new homes being built, a new health centre on the way, but in the mean-time long waits for residents in an area with particularly acute health needs in many cases. I also knew from the early days of working in the area how easily the connection between the housing growth and the already stretched health care facilities could lead to divisive sentiment between long-established and new residents.  

When we were first established as Thames Ward Community Project a big part of our mandate was to ensure that the community didn’t become (or remain, depending on your perspective) divided, rather that residents of all parts of what was at that time Thames ward, would interact positively with each other as part of one community with equally positive life chances. The challenges residents were facing then, and are still facing now, in seeing their GP were not the fault of the new residents moving into the area as it grew, any more than it was the fault of the residents who’d lived in the area all their lives. In fact, the difficulty in seeing the local GP was (and still is) experienced by all residents in the same way. I’d been in a few meetings with representatives of the local council, developer and health partners and seen a genuine desire to find a resolution, or at least some sort of remedy, from all parties but until recently none had seemed to make much of a dent in the issue. 

I came into the loop relatively late on this new initiative in partnership with the council and the local health centre (with funding provided by Barking Riverside Limited) as the work of Thames Life has been via our Health Outreach Officer Lucy Lee and CEO Matt Scott. But, what I wanted to do here was focus on my reflections from the first drop-in on the 12th May and what future Drop-In’s could mean for residents and Thames Life as an organisation.   

Due to covid it’s been quite a while since Thames Life (and I) have been involved in a large community event like the one that took place on 12th May. It was great to be in-person, meeting so many residents – in many cases new residents I’d never met before – and knowing that the event I was involved with was making a real difference to their lives in a very immediate and real way. I witnessed a real-time change from so many of the residents I met from feelings I interpreted as uncertainty, scepticism and distrust when they arrived, turn into relief, reassurance and gratitude. We heard from residents who said it had been years since they had seen their doctor, from those who had been putting things off for a while because they knew how difficult it could be to get an appointment, and from those who were raving about the positive experiences they’d had with some of the extended services present on the day, such as the hand and shoulder massage, talking therapies, blood pressure checks and cost of living advice. We heard lots of praise of the experience of being able to see a doctor within 20 mins or so without an appointment, where they would otherwise have had to wait months. We also noted lots of compliments on the overall vibe of the event feeling very different to a typical visit to the GP, with lots of community groups present to speak to those who could benefit from their services e.g. local faith groups, parent and youth groups, arts, health, wellbeing and bereavement groups too.  

All in all, it was amazing to play a small part in making the day a success and see the positive impact it had on so many residents. Knowing that I’m part of one of the organisations which made this initiative possible fills me with an enormous sense of pride and a significant amount of the recognition and respect for the results so far (and to come) go to our fabulous Health Outreach Officer (and local resident) Lucy Lee for making so much of this possible and ensuring each event runs smoothly. 

The next FREE Drop-In Clinic is happening monthly on Friday 9th June, and monthly thereafter on Friday 14th July, Friday 11th August, Friday 8th September and Friday 13th October. We have been out as a team leafletting at the local schools and left information at all local community venues and will do so just before each of the next clinics to ensure that residents know when the next one is.  

We encourage anyone interested to come along and see for themselves! 


Hi all, my name is Alex S, and I am a year 10 student at Riverside School. This week, I had the opportunity to do my work experience here at Thames Life which has been really enjoyable. I chose to do my work experience at Thames Life as I have been part of YCAG ever since joining secondary school in year 7 and I find helping the community rewarding and fulfilling. I have also participated in many local events such as litter picking with Rodding Rubbish in the past few years. Through YCAG I have been involved in events such as the Barking and Dagenham Accountability Assembly back in October, where I got to meet and speak with the Lead of the Barking and Dagenham council, Darren Rodwell, and other powerful people in the area. These experiences and events gave me an insight into things such as Community Organising, campaigning and public speaking, which made me want to do my work experience at Thames Life, as it was a setting I was relatively familiar with and enjoy. However, this week has exceeded my expectations, and it was even more fun than I had expected!

I started my work experience on Monday with the Thames Life team by doing a Wellbeing Activity. I had never heard of any workplace do this before, so I was intrigued by what it was about. I was a bit intimidated at first by sitting at a table with people I had not spoken with properly before but that feeling did not last long as the team was very welcoming and friendly to me, always ensuring I was comfortable and understanding everything. I got to attend their team meeting, and hear about their current projects and successes, for example the GP Drop-in Clinic at the Warehouse which I found to be such a great idea. In this meeting I realised what a positive impact Thames Life has on the community as there were so many stories of happy residents which was so great to hear about. I also heard more about The Warehouse, and although I am really upset about the idea of it closing (as I have been there numerous times) I feel a lot more hopeful knowing that Thames Life and others are actively working to stop this. Then, I went door-knocking for the first time. At first, I felt it was too out of my comfort zone but after Alex A encouraged me to try it; I realised it was not as difficult as I expected it to be, and I was happy to have challenged myself to try it. 

On Tuesday, I spent the day with Nikhil in the Barking Food Forest. He gave me a tour of the forest and shared tips on how to care for different plants. Nikhil shared about different career paths in agriculture and potential work experience that could be done which was interesting to hear about. Nikhil has expertise in permaculture and hosts sessions with the Riverside Bridge, the primary, nursery and secondary schools on Tuesdays, and sessions with residents on Saturdays from 10am to 12pm in the Food Forest. My main project for the day was working on the signage for the Barking Food Forest. At the end of the day, we put it up and I look forward to seeing it every day when I walk to school.  

On Wednesday, I learnt all about the history of Thames Life and Community Organising with Alex A, which was valuable to learn about as it made understanding the Ripple Effect meeting later that evening, easier. I had the chance to take minutes for the meeting which I had not done before, and I was able to see the point of view of residents in the area. During the day, I got the chance to sit down with the Thames Life Governance Manager, Margarida, who shared information about her job role. She reviews methods and helps to find more effective ways to do things at Thames Life, such as finances and policies, helping to save a lot of time and resources. She has a background in Environmental Engineering, which she said taught her “a bit of everything”. I related with her when talking about enjoying organising and structuring things and I gained a lot of insight from our conversation. 

Today (Thursday) I worked in communications with Zahra, and I helped design a safeguarding card using Canva. We also spoke to some media outlets, and I spent time working on this blog post. I also had a catch up with Jamie to see how he supports Zahra in her role, but also does some of the behind the scenes management of the organisation alongside Margarida and Matt as Deputy CEO. 

On Friday I will be working with Lucy, and we will be having a stall at the Thames View Juniors Multicultural day to spread awareness on the campaign to save the EOED Warehouse. I very much look forward to getting stuck into a community event to see the positive impact Thames Life makes.

I’ve really enjoyed my time with the team and found I learnt a lot. Thank you to everyone especially Alex for making this possible! 

– Alex S 🙂

CEO Blog April 23: Feeding The Wolf

An old Cherokee Indian was teaching her granddaughter about life. 

She said, “A fight is going on inside me,” she told the young one, “a fight between two wolves. 

The Dark one is evil – it is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” She continued, “The Light Wolf is good – it is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you granddaughter…and inside of every other person on the face of this earth.” 

The granddaughter ponders this for a moment and then asked, “Grandmother, which wolf will win? 

The old Cherokee smiled and simply said, “The one you feed“. 


You may have come across this story before. I like it because it always jolts me into the present and the importance of choices and perception, how we choose to see things and what we choose to do. It feels very human and also gives a sense of destiny. 

However, it is also a bit simplistic. Our lives and their interactions are messy. It is not always good wolf, bad wolf. Then I found out it doesn’t end there; that there’s another version of the story, where the old Cherokee replies: 


“If you feed them right, they both win.” 


If you focus on one but neglect the other, you get pushback. You get polarisation, not resolution.   


Plato – the guy who gave us Socrates and Socratic wisdom, had an analogy about the human soul as a mixture of three things: a charioteer and two horses: one white, one black. In the busyness of our lives, we are the charioteer getting pulled in different directions and the horses are the engine room, making things happen, representing the purity of reason (white horse) and the drives of instinct and desire (black horse), which are often in conflict. Key point: the charioteer is not in control. 

Simply stigmatising the black horse as bad won’t help the chariot ride, which is bumpy enough as it is. Bringing it back a bit, simply telling ourselves who is right (good wolf / white horse) and who is wrong (bad wolf / black horse) and regimenting rigid boundaries in our lives, might make superficial sense but doesn’t transform the situation. 

This idea comes up a lot.  The snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan has extended his career by being a lot more chilled. He attributes this to Steve Peters who wrote a book called The Chimp Paradox. The book is simple evolutionary biology. Metaphorically we have three ‘operating systems’ inside of us, parts of the brain and nervous system. We all start from the same place, as a chimp which is the uncontrolled, emotional child within us.  Secondly, we grow up and become rational adults, and from time to time, revert to being chimps, when stressed or under pressure, get triggered, so adults become infantile, angered, out of control. Thirdly behind all of this is an unconscious part that runs most of our activities. To live happier and more successful lives, we need to better manage our Chimp. 


According to Peters, the chimp is five times stronger than the rational adult. Once the chimp has control, you can’t fight it so you need a different strategy. Basically, the only thing that works is to enable your chimp to chill.  It is not a rational thing, it is more elemental. Being kind to oneself and others turns out to be a really good strategy on all levels. 

Socrates said he knew that he knew nothing. I’ve always found that reassuring. When I look closely at things around me they don’t make immediate sense. I’ve never trusted formal explanations of anything. It has to be about lived experience. 


For me, residents have lived experience in abundance and much of the decision-making and services are the wrong way round and back to front. They don’t work very well. They get snarled up. There is always a rational explanation for this – a white horse, a sensible adult – trying to manage things, drive the chariot etc.  So much for the rational explanation from our would-be decision-makers, community workers and service providers. When I look at strategic plans, systems theory, new public management etc. I invariably feel it is nonsense. I bounce off them. I don’t relate.   

What makes sense to me and what I do get – is people living their lives, creating their own meaning outside of the plans and structures others have for them. Our Thames Life vision is for residents to drive change. Drive change on their own terms. That is a big vision. Maybe it is also a simple thing because it is happening all around us all the time and we don’t even notice.   


As a community development trust and as a community worker it is easy to get sucked up into thinking one is fighting the good fight. Maybe that is delusional, just feeding a different wolf. Sometimes I throw shade and it comes right back at me. Life is lived forwards and understood backwards. In fact, we don’t understand anything, what we get is experience and an overview – an overstanding. 


One of the many things I love about community work is the focus on reflective learning. Reflecting on what is going on allows the opportunity to do differently and get different outcomes.  There is a lot of value in that. 



Matt Scott


Be Body Positive!

For young people, by young people supported by Society Links (Tower Hamlets) and Thames Life (Barking & Dagenham) 


What is Be Body Positive?  

ELFT has been working with partners, Barnardo’s, ELBA, NELFT and Infused Media, to create a website packed with engaging and accessible resources to support young people with disordered eating. Designed as an early intervention, Be Body Positive promotes building a positive relationship with food and your bodies.


Why is early intervention important?  

The eating disorder charity, Beat, says disordered eating – a term used to describe eating difficulties that don’t require a clinical diagnosis – is “becoming more common” and can often be the first signs of someone developing an eating disorder. With eating disorder diagnoses on the rise in the UK, the need to intervene before diagnosis has become a matter of urgency for the NHS. 


How can Be Body Positive help?  

Be Body Positive seeks to address this issue by providing extra support to young people, parents/carers and health professionals.  

Sarah Wilson, Director of CAMHS and Chair of the project board said: 

“In a digital world where negative and harmful views of body image can be difficult to avoid, Be Body Positive aims to carve out a nourishing and safe space. We hope young people will come to the site and learn how to feel at ease in their bodies.” 


Who created Be Body Positive?  

ELFT and NELFT clinicians have worked with experts from Barnardo’s and Infused Media to develop the content, ranging from videos and quizzes to stories and coping strategies. Working with East London Business Alliance, and supported by Society Links (Tower Hamlets) and Thames Life (Barking & Dagenham), local young people have played an integral role in the project, from brainstorming the name of the site, to the design. 


Jon Daly, Strategic Programme Lead for Mental Health at Barnardo’s is offering third sector expertise to the project: 

“We believe that with the right support, young people can transform their lives. We are thrilled to be working with these partners on a project that will offer practical and emotional support to young people with disordered eating.” 


Ian Parkes, CEO of East London Business Alliance said:  

“There has been a big increase in the reports of young people struggling with wellbeing and mental health. The earlier we can get reassurance and support to them, the better the outcome. Young people are digital natives, and this new initiative will get support to them in a familiar format. Where young people or their families are digitally excluded – we will try to address that as well”. 


The NHSX Digital Health Partnerships Award funds this project.  


When will Be Body Positive launch? 

We are currently in the process of evaluating the website with groups of young people, parents/carers and clinicians. We aim to launch by the end of February 2023. Stay tuned! 


Email us at hello@bebodypositive.org.uk 

Follow us on Instagram and TikTok @bebodypositive_nhs  


We will be visiting community organisations, like youth network & groups and schools, to demo Be Body Positive and talk about the need for early intervention in disordered eating. If you are interested in organising a visit with your group (in London and surrounding areas), please email us: bebodypositive@elba-1.org.uk 

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