THE legacy of a pioneering NHS initiative to test creative solutions for the health and care challenges of the 21st century will live on in Darlington after funding runs out, councillors have heard.

NHS England’s Healthy New Towns programme has seen a range of positive changes to the “wider determinants of health” in the town, members of Darlington Borough Council were told.

The authority’s adults and housing scrutiny committee heard the scheme had focussed on addressing issues such as including obesity, dementia and community cohesion in the Red Hall estate due to the poor health status of many residents.

Members were told since the initiative was launched in 2016, the estate’s community had changed from being “apathetic and demoralised” to energised and self-motivated, becoming involved in a spectrum of initiatives.

Changes have included facelifts for properties, the creation of a playground for younger children and the development of health technologies to enable residents to access primary care from their homes.

Officers said under the scheme, clinicians, town planners and technology experts had been brought together to reimagine how healthcare could be delivered in these places, and included work by property developers to design homes that people could remain in for life.

Councillor Veronica Copeland said as funding for the scheme was due to end in March, the main concern was over maintaining the positive outcomes.

She said: “There have been other initiatives there that have fallen by the wayside. I am really pleased the community is getting themselves involved. They can’t just rely on getting things done for them, but there will need to be a little bit of support to coordinate things and get activities to take place.”

Officers said a key legacy of the scheme would be the closer working relationship between bodies which “don’t get together very often and a better appreciation of the inter-dependencies of different sectors” and that it had also sewed the seeds for stronger community leadership and empowerment.

The council’s director of public health, Miriam Davidson, said the scheme had had a “very ambitious reach”.

She said: “It’s not just been about community development, it’s not just about the built environment, it’s a really complicated system change. The focus now is on legacy. When there isn’t any more NHS funding for health new towns if council has got those principles in the local plan that can have a positive impact.”