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TALKBACK everyone’s talking about . . .


GP referrals T


he fi tness sector is chomping at the bit to get people active and improve their health via exercise referral


schemes. So how can we encourage GPs to start referring more widely? The link between lack of exercise and


conditions such as heart disease and cancer are widely reported. Meanwhile, an inactive person spends 38 per cent more days in hospital over the course of their life than an active person, and it’s estimated that 20 per cent of the UK population are accounting for 70 per cent of the NHS bill. The fi tness industry can help – but how can we persuade the medical sector of this?


dr sarah dauncey nuffield health • medical director


exercise: firstly, they have concerns about quality assurance and the level of expertise at health clubs; and secondly, there’s a general lack of understanding of exercise as a clinical management tool. At Nuffield Health, we’re trying to overcome this by upskilling our in-house


“I


staff, driving higher levels of clinical understanding of health and wellbeing within our clubs, and by working with GPs at a local level to build relations and improve general understanding of exercise in the management of long-term chronic conditions. Offering memberships and giving GPs the opportunity to


experience an exercise prescription might help, giving them more insight into what fitness professionals offer to help individuals use exercise as a clinical tool. Inviting them to educational evenings at fitness centres, to discuss the management of certain conditions, would help their understanding as well. But measurable health outcomes are the best way of persuading


GPs: most are open to change if shown evidence. The fitness industry needs to keep working on records to prove that exercise can work as a clinical and preventative management tool.


” 28


think there are two main barriers to GPs referring people for


kath hudson • journalist • health club management


The fitness industry is well aware of the huge benefits of activity for both physical and mental health, but how can we get the medical sector to better embrace exercise referrals?


Nuffi eld Health’s Dr Sarah Dauncey


says an ideal scenario would be to give GPs a budget for referral schemes, drawn from the subsequent NHS savings exercise could deliver in reduced hospital appointments, acute admissions and A&E visits. Perfect though it would be, such a scenario is a long way off and there is a lot of groundwork to do fi rst. Meanwhile, the lack of knowledge


about exercise referral schemes when I called my local surgery and PCT press offi ce suggest they remain low priority. Exercise is also, it seems, seen as a hard sell to chronically inactive people. Drugs often offer the ‘quick fi x’ approach that people often want.


At the recent TEDMED conference


in Washington DC it was mooted that people who live a long time, but who need medical intervention, are good for business for the pharmaceutical industry and parts of the medical sector. I’m sure there are many GPs who would vociferously disagree with this, but the fi tness industry must seek them out. So what can we do? Meet with GPs


personally and build a relationship? Lobby government for fi nancial incentives for GPs who make referrals, as is already the case with referrals to smoking cessation schemes? Place fi tness professionals in GP surgeries to talk direct to patients? We ask the experts...


HOW CAN GPS BE ENCOURAGED TO REFER? EMAIL US: HEALTHCLUB@LEISUREMEDIA.COM


cath mcguinness middleway surgery • gp


exercise, but it’s hard to convey that to someone who comes to you in their late 40s, having done no exercise since school and now overweight and suffering from health problems. My surgery is in one of the most


“A deprived areas of Cornwall, with poor


diet and nutrition, low levels of exercise and high levels of ill health and obesity. My patients often look at me blankly when I suggest exercise. However, colleagues working in middle-class areas report more interest in exercise referrals. Going to a gym is a step too far for many of my patients: the


cost, transport and childcare are all obstacles. If these could be reduced, it might improve the interest in exercise referral schemes. I encourage my patients to exercise, but have to have a low starting point – I suggest simple power walks to get a bit puffed or breathless, or enlisting a friend to go to a class together. Improved communication with the fitness industry would


also help with the referral process, as we don’t always know if schemes are still running. A central number to call for information would be beneficial.


” Read Health Club Management online at healthclubmanagement.co.uk/digital july 2012 © cybertrek 2012


s a keen sportswoman, I do understand the benefits of


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