THREATENED exercise classes for people with long-term health problems will now continue for at least another year after funding was secured.

The future of the NHS-funded Healthwise programme in gyms across Waltham Forest was under review and staff told their jobs were to be axed.

The classes also faced the closure in 2010 and 2011 when funding dried up, but on both occasions the service was given a last minute reprieve.

Now Greenwich Leisure, which runs the scheme, has announced that classes will continue after the NHS agreed to continue to provide financial backing.

Iris Trew, 59, of Stapleford Road in Chingford, attends classes at Kelmscott Leisure Centre in Walthamstow three times a week to help with a back problem.

She said: "That is absolutely brilliant news. It’s very important that it is kept running because there’s many people out there that need this service.

"It’s vital for their health. The staff here help us with specific exercises which are designed to help us stay fit and reduce the pain our health problems cause us."

Gillian Mein, 67, of Maple Avenue in Chingford, who has problems with her back, hip and knee, said: "We couldn’t do it without the staff because they are there to make sure we don’t have any horrible accidents.

"But I don’t know why they have to mess about every year and look like they will close it, it just causes a lot of grief and worry."

Dr Kay Eilbert, acting joint director of public health in Waltham Forest said: "We are delighted that the scheme has been secured for another year and remain committed to ensuring that Waltham Forest residents receive the best possible healthcare and physical activity provision where appropriate.

"We will continue discussions with GLL and Waltham Forest Council to discuss how we can improve and extend the service during 2012."

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