It may have only been open just under six months, but the Mildenhall Hub is already showing the benefits of having services located together.

The Hub has been created to improve the health, well-being and education for the community. The nationally ground-breaking initiative has not only delivered better school, leisure and other facilities, but has also brought together partners in health, and care as well as other services to work even more collaboratively for the benefit of residents.

Health partners moved into the Hub in September and West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust adult and paediatric community health teams are already seeing the benefits for patient care.

Cardiac rehabilitation exercise instructor Matt Lavers said:

“When people have had a cardiac event, they can be very nervous of getting active again, and our rehabilitation programme helps people to understand how important it is to regain their fitness safely. Once they have completed our course, we can refer them on to Abbeycroft exercise instructors for continuing support through the GP referral scheme. Recovering patients can visit the leisure centres with support, regain their confidence and learn how they can maintain their fitness. The uptake has been very good, and very beneficial for our patients and we are really pleased we can now offer this service in Mildenhall.”

The leisure facilities at Mildenhall Hub, managed by Abbeycroft Leisure, have seen a positive increase in use compared to pre-covid statistics, with centre membership up by 38%, swimming lesson participation up by 45% and casual swimming use up by 127%.

Abbeycroft has also been able to offer specialist classes at The Hub as a direct result of working alongside the pulmonary rehab and Hub based physio teams.

Matt Hickey, Health and Wellbeing Manager at Abbeycroft Leisure said:

“Having our health partners within the same building is hugely beneficial for programmes such as Active Living, a unique, exercise referral scheme designed to support people to increase their physical activity levels. The health and wellbeing opportunities for the community is particularly exciting, as we see clients already on-site with the health teams, transition seamlessly across to the pool or gym to start their journey into a more active, healthy lifestyle.”

Marilyn Badger from Mildenhall was referred into the Breathe Better class and also attends the Knit and Natter session in the library. Marilyn said:

“My breathing has improved so much with the exercises I’m doing and I’m not as breathless anymore. I literally march into the car park when I’ve finished feeling so wonderful.  I love having everything in one building and just the other day, I came from my blood test appointment and within two minutes I was in my Knit and Natter session, so I’m over the moon with The Hub.”

The Hub has also enabled families to attend community paediatric speech and language therapy rather than having to go to Bury St Edmunds, while having a library on-site has also proven important.

Isobel Crichton-Smith, community paediatric speech and language therapy lead said:

“Books are so important for developing early communication skills such as shared attention and listening, or rhythm and rhyme and vocabulary. They help to enhance parent-child bonding, develop communication and support many of our speech language and communication targets with the child or young person.”

The library, whose staff welcome visitors to the building, was the first service to open at the Hub. Since its 1 June opening it has seen a 54 per cent increase in people borrowing books compared to the same period in 2019, while the number of library members has also soared with around 700 new members. A large proportion of this increase has been through families, and there is a very strong cross-over with the swimming programme

The library hopes to further build on this success with the return of its calendar of events with regular activities for older people, families and children on offer – see for more details.

Krystal Vittles, Head of Service Delivery at Suffolk Libraries said:

“Moving Mildenhall Library to the new hub has been a great success. We’ve signed up hundreds of new customers already and seen a big increase on the number of visitors and library loans. The library is at the centre of the space and plays a key role in making the building more than the sum of its parts with a real focus on improving people’s wellbeing. Our customers are benefiting from a big increase in opening hours and a much more modern, larger library space. We’re also now offering more events and activities so even more people can come along and discover the many wonders of their local library.”

Mildenhall College Academy which moved into the Hub back in mid-June has seen the number of students it can cater for increase from 210 to 240 for this academic year, and it may increase that again by another 30 for September 2022. As well as offering a better learning environment, the school is continuing to strengthen its community links with and is currently collecting items for the Kings Project Food Bank to donate ahead of Christmas.

Nicola Hood, Principal at the Academy said:

“All of the students and staff look like they are standing a few inches taller, such is the impact on their pride of having these fantastic new facilities available to them. It is a better environment both for teaching and learning and it is a joy to be part of the hub, working alongside the library, Abbeycroft Leisure, police and all the other partners to enhance what we can offer to our pupils and the local community.”


[Release issued by West Suffolk Council]