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Beyond the ward: Becoming a student entrepreneur

Having struggled with mental health himself, postgraduate mental health nursing student Matt Waugh knows the power of exercise only too well. “I struggled with mental health after I left school. Exercise was the best treatment I ever had. It gave me structure, confidence, hope and purpose,” he said.

As part of his course at King’s, Matt undertook a number of placements on different wards at St Charles Hospital, part of Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust. All of the wards had gyms and open spaces such as gardens, however he found patients weren’t using them to their full potential, despite there being a wealth of evidence showing that regular physical activity is beneficial to improving mental health conditions.

Indeed, this is a global issue. Increasing mental health problems among young people, combined with unhealthy lifestyles and isolation mean that those with severe mental illness die 25 years younger. Patients in hospital may experience obesity as a side effect from medication, as well as lack of motivation to exercise.

This inspired him to set up Live More, a service providing daily supported exercise for hospital inpatients with severe mental illness. The aim of the service is to also make this a priority within NHS Trusts, and eventually create a programme that can be used in the community to ensure patients continue to exercise once they are discharged. The idea is that by working alongside GPs, community nursing teams and fitness instructors, regular exercise can become an important part of patient care in treating severe mental illness.

Accelerating his idea

From his work on this service, Matt was awarded a place on King’s20 Accelerator, a year-long accelerator programme aimed at supporting the 20 brightest ventures from King’s to reach their potential. Winners receive access to leading expert mentorship, investment opportunities, coaching, office space, and the opportunity to develop the leadership skills to succeed.

And it didn’t stop there. Following a pitch to an audience of 70 investors, mentors, King’s students, staff and alumni, he was also awarded a mentorship scholarship from King’s alumnus and Entrepreneur in Residence, David Walsh. This is in addition to an Allesch-Taylor Scholarship, as well as winning the Medopad Greatest Minds in the NHS Competition.

Pilot scheme

Live More is now undergoing a pilot scheme in a psychiatric intensive care unit at St Charles Hospital in London. The patients are supported to take part in daily exercise activities, helping to give them a positive identity and support to sustain and improve their lifestyle. This in turn supports their recovery from severe mental illness.

Matt’s hope is for the service to continue to grow and expand. “The aim for Live More is for regular and enjoyable physical activity to become part of how we treat severe mental illness. Daily supported exercise for longer, healthier and happier lives."

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