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An 84-year-old former jockey for HM The Queen struggling with the impact of limited mobility on his physical and mental wellbeing has been given the chance to ride again…

Thanks to the social prescribing team of Altrincham Healthcare Alliance Primary Care Network working with the Injured Jockey’s Fund charity, Timperley-based Roy Hurson-Hughes is now taking to the saddle with a different kind of horse-power – a mobility scooter – which he described as “a real winner!”

Having only even ridden a pony before signing up as an apprentice jockey aged 15, Manchester-born Roy quickly rose through the ranks working at Newmarket and being involved with the Royal Stud, Sandringham, during his successful flat racing career. “I’ve had a fabulous life,” he said “As a trial jockey I broke in horses the Queen had purchased and I’ve ridden competitively at most UK courses – from Ascot to York. Her Majesty had a phenomenal knowledge of horse racing and breeding which we all respected and admired. She had in-depth discussions about a horse’s potential and knew me by name.” Roy was pals with legendary jockey Lester Piggott, fellow Newmarket apprentice and ex-Monkees frontman, Davy Jones, and successfully raced more than 50 of Her Majesty’s horses.

Following decades the saddle, injuries took their toll. After breaking his back twice, multiple broken ribs and being kicked in the head, Roy moved away from competitive racing and spent decades in California managing summer camps for young people – including teaching equestrian skills – before returning to the UK.

He added: “Despite the injuries, I’ve always been active, busy and surrounded by lots of people, so it’s been frustrating to have limited mobility. I’m normally independent and don’t want to be a burden on others, but being alone has been a real challenge – physically and mentally.”

Figures show that loneliness impacts on people’s physical and mental health increasing the risk of death by 26% and increasing the risk of developing heart disease and stroke, depression and accelerating cognitive decline. By 2025/26 it’s estimated than two million people over 50 will experience loneliness.* And post-pandemic, loneliness and social isolation has increased with 41% of adults feeling lonely since lockdown.**

Karen Whiteside, part of the social prescribing team with Altrincham Healthcare Alliance Primary Care Network, explained: “Medicine can’t fix every condition and social prescribing enables GPs to refer patients with complex needs which affect their health and wellbeing for practical and emotional support – from counselling, to support with homelessness, loneliness and mental health, debt issues and the impact of Covid-19.”

Social prescribers working with Altrincham Medical Practice, Park Medical Practice, Shay Lane Medical Centre (Dr Kelman), St Johns Medical Centre and West Timperley Medical Centre provided thousands of wellbeing calls supporting patients during the pandemic linking patients to shopping and foodbanks and continue to support those struggling with isolation, signpost people for exercise/arts and sports programmes to boost wellbeing, help those with fuel poverty issues, and support those with financial worries, housing issues and homelessness.

Karen said that securing the mobility scooter for Roy via the Injured Jockey’s Fund has helped “re-open his world.” She added: “He’s had a fascinating life and loves sharing tales from his racing days but his limited mobility has increasingly affected his mental wellbeing. The charity has been wonderful in providing the scooter. This will enable him to feel brighter, more independent and give him a real boost.”

Karen Sharpe from the Injured Jockeys Fund added: “We are delighted to help Roy. Collaborating with the social prescribing team has shown that there are so many ways to make a difference peoples’ health. It’s been rewarding to achieve this brilliant outcome for Roy.”

Roy described the scooter as “The most incredible Christmas gift,” adding that he is “so grateful for all the help and support and the chance to get my life back on track.” He laughed: “Although I’m back in a saddle, it’s a bit of a different racer than the four hooves I’m used to but it’s still very smooth on the flat!”

Patients who are feeling lonely or anxious and who want to speak to a social prescriber can self-refer, email the social prescribing team or ask for more information at their GP reception.