“I was privileged to speak alongside Phil Lown from Suffolk County Council and Warren Smyth from Abbeycroft Leisure at the recent Quest CIMSPA National Conference, which was held on 27th February 2020.
“We were reviewing the progress of Suffolk’s newly created county-wide exercise referral scheme and associated standards, which launched in Feb 2019. Great leaps have already been made locally to harmonise data collection, workflow and standard operating procedures.
“During questions at the end of the session, it was raised that exercise referral is so often linked to a short-term intervention. In many ways I can appreciate this view; the word intervention conveys a start and an end. This is so often true of commissioned services, which look to exhibit change over a set period of time, for example 12 weeks. Although funding may only be available for the period of 12 weeks, and NICE guidance PH34 commonly encourages 12-week schemes, the actual story on the ground is often very different.
“Many providers of exercise referral services see their initial intervention as the start of a much longer journey in physical activity and behaviour change. From experience, it is never a provider’s intention to just work with people for the minimum length of time. Converting people to long-term habitual exercisers is the key to sustained delivery.
“However, I can fully appreciate the difficulties that arise in proving that the long-term exerciser originated from a short-term exercise referral scheme. Our partnership with leisure membership system provider Xn Leisure aims to simplify this picture. Once referred, a live link is made via an integration between Xn Leisure and ReferAll – and a specific membership applied. This membership can then be used as the anchor for analysing longer term activity.
“While we of course celebrate the short-term interventions that leads to a long-term behaviour change, tracking is of utmost importance if we’re to ensure structured follow-ups happen. These allow for greater and sustained data collection that assists in proving that such schemes benefit participants.
“I welcome your thoughts and comments.”