The Public Health Team at the Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames has a mission to raise awareness of physical activity for health improvement. The challenges of government cuts has engendered a collaborative approach to the delivery of its lifestyle programmes via its team of Get Active Instructors, but also working alongside partners in the community and voluntary sectors, providing people in the community with the skills to deliver programmes. In addition, they are working with primary and secondary care providers and national, regional and local sports organisations and agencies to develop and promote initiatives for activity in the borough.
As part of its streamlined approach, the council has transferred to a new online Exercise on Referral (EOR) software system to enhance the efficiency of exercise referrals and generate meaningful data. The council switched to the new system from software specialists ReferAll in January 2016.
Shirley Piotrowski, Physical Activity Lead at Royal Borough of Kingston Upon Thames, explained: “We had been using Access for our EOR programme and the system was outdated and becoming unworkable. We really needed to upgrade. In addition we were using other basic software systems, such as Excel, for other lifestyle programmes. It seemed an ideal time to create a one-stop shop, a healthy lifestyle hub. We could then have a system where all the data and information was held and a more efficient tool for monitoring and evaluation purposes.
“I first heard about ReferAll at a networking event in London. We found other councils were successfully using it in London and the system had good recommendations from our peers. I really liked the system and could see its potential.”
The decision to award the contract to ReferAll was based on an extensive tender process. The tender was weighted to the organisation that could fulfil the needs of the council’s EOR programme and to those with relevant experience with other similar programme providers.
Commenting on the decision, Shirley Piotrowski said: “Reputation was vital in terms of which other councils were using it successfully and we made a point of taking up references with a number of these. It was really important to us that whoever we worked with had experience of working in other organisations like ours so they really understood the challenges we face in our environment.
“Other essential points for consideration included simplicity of use both by the Public Health Team but also by our Get Active Instructors. Flexibility was also essential. ReferAll’s cloud-based system is ideal for our staff who work remotely delivering programmes to patients as they can access it on a tablet. Obviously value for money is always vital too.”
Get Active is a structured twelve-week exercise programme that offers a series of one-to-one sessions with a qualified exercise specialist. As well as group exercise classes, organised health walks and outdoor exercise sessions, activities include active gardening, swimming and access to nutritional advice.
Kingston’s EOR programme is delivered at five centres throughout the borough: YMCA Hawker Centre, YMCA Surbiton, as well as in partnership with Places for People at Tolworth, New Malden and Kingfisher Leisure Centres.
“Our old system was restrictive and limited in terms of the data we could collect and it also lacked functionality. With ReferAll we have comprehensive usage and this enables us to get more information out of it in terms of data and outcomes. By bringing on this system we could review our pre and post evaluation questionnaires and so we could expand our knowledge and understanding of physical activity behaviours.
“With five centres and activities in each, the system allows us to pick out indicators from each site individually. This is essential for reporting. Previously I had to print everything off and count up the activities in each centre manually, which was time consuming.”
Team members using the new system have also benefitted: “Our staff can now do short reports including data such as the number of people who have completed sessions over three months. This gives us clear data, quickly and easily. It also allows us to monitor and do quality checks on the programmes so we can check patients are being contacted quickly and efficiently. The added bonus is that it gives our team independence and confidence so they don’t have to rely on a central person to provide their data. The information is available to them at any time.
“Patients on our EOR programme have also indirectly gained due to our quality checks: by ensuring the first appointment is made quickly and within the designated time. We can also observe which patients don’t call us back to arrange their appointment, so we manage the system more efficiently. This means we can focus our resources on individuals who really want to participate in the EOR programme. I also think the text-messaging service, which will remind patients of their appointments, will have huge benefits, encouraging them to attend initial appointments and enhancing retention during the programme.”
Currently Kingston’s EOR scheme has around six hundred referrals per annum and this is increasing year on year.
“The next phase is to engage with our referrers with a view to supporting them to make the transition from paper to on-line referrals. This will, no doubt, increase the number of referrals overall, as the process is so simple, quick and straightforward. GP engagement is crucial for the continued success of our EOR programme.
“ReferAll’s system plays a vital role in providing us with critical data to support our initiatives. Initially we have used it to profile patients in terms of key indicators, such as blood pressure and weight management and also for regular reports for meetings in terms of quality checks, numbers of patients who complete, leave early or who are waiting to start a programme. Moving forward we will produce six monthly stats reports and a full evaluation at year end so we can demonstrate the performance of the EOR programme to partners and stakeholders.”
Shirley Piotrowski added: “ReferAll are extremely knowledgeable, helpful and quick to respond to queries. Their calm and patient responses and understanding of our problems coupled with a real willingness to listen so we can explain our needs has provided us with great support.”
Kingston Council is now focussed on the plans for 2017 and beyond: “The future is definitely collaborative, a more joined-up approach, with shared functionality between EOR programme providers like us and leisure providers, who provide signposting programmes at leisure centres. We want to know how many EOR patients go on to be a member at a leisure centre and to identify their activity so we can see how participation in Get Active has influenced their lifestyle and exercise routines.”
Get Active is a structured twelve-week exercise programme that offers a series of one-to-one sessions with a qualified exercise specialist. The personalised exercise programme is designed to suit each patient’s ability with on-going support provided by the instructor throughout the programme. As well as group exercise classes, organised health walks and outdoor exercise sessions, activities include active gardening, swimming and access to weight management and nutritional advice.