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UNITING THE WORLD OF FITNESS
Health Club Management

Health Club Management

features

Interview: James Sanderson

Gyms have a role to play in collaborating with the social prescribing movement to improve the nation’s health, the CEO of the UK’s National Academy of Social Prescribing tells Kate Cracknell

Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 9
Social prescribing link workers can help address a person’s social needs / photo: shutterstock/mladen zivkovic
Social prescribing link workers can help address a person’s social needs / photo: shutterstock/mladen zivkovic
I’d like to see the gym sector help champion the social prescribing agenda, as a route to getting more people engaged in physical activity

What is social prescribing and how does it work?
Social prescribing is a great new way to help people look after their physical and mental health. GPs and other agencies can refer patients to a social prescribing link worker, who in turn can connect them to a variety of community groups and activities for practical, social and emotional support.

This creates a powerful bridge between health services and the local community and allows people more control over their wellbeing in a way that suits them. The services offered are wide-ranging but can include things such as physical activity, healthy eating advice, arts activities, gardening, cooking classes and befriending schemes.

Is social prescribing the answer to growing health inequalities across the UK?
The National Health Service is moving towards more personalised care and social prescribing is a key part of that – particularly in tackling health inequality. At least one in five GP appointments are about wider social needs rather than just medical issues.

Through social prescribing, we can support people facing these problems by connecting them to community groups, support services or activities that can address these wider issues, on top of improving their physical and mental health.

What’s the relationship between NHS England and the NASP?
Essentially, NHS England and NHS Improvement’s role is to implement commitments made in the NHS Long Term Plan and set the future direction.
We support social prescribing link workers, primary care and integrated care systems to implement social prescribing right across England. We work with a number of partners to achieve this, including the National Academy of Social Prescribing (NASP).

NASP was launched by the UK government in October 2019. It creates partnerships across a variety of sectors to promote the kind of services we’ve talked about and is a brilliant champion for social prescribing and the work of local communities.

What’s your personal vision for social prescribing?
I think the social prescribing movement gives us a unique opportunity to rebalance health and wellbeing activity. It provides us with clear ways to deliver psychosocial support alongside more traditional, medical interventions. There’s growing evidence of the power of social prescribing to transform lives and I hope we can enable as many people as possible to achieve their health goals through the programme.
  
Can you give some examples of best practice social prescribing?
I was personally really moved by the story of Patrick, a 75-year-old dad and husband from Stockport who had retired and felt he’d lost his purpose in life (www.HCMmag.com/patrick). He said he felt he couldn’t carry on and his wife made him an appointment with his doctor, who was able to give him a social prescription and put him in touch with his link worker.

Patrick subsequently joined the bowling club, did a Men Matters holistic health course, managed to cook his wife a meal after a cooking lesson and now joins others on weekly walks. He says he’s now in a much better place and for me, it’s hearing stories like this that makes me so proud of the programme and what can be achieved.

How localised are the networks, and how will you scale best practice?
NHS England & Improvement (NHSE/I) has committed to rolling out social prescribing and funding link workers across England. The ambition in our long-term plan is that over 900,000 people a year will be referred to social prescribing by 2023/24, which would mean organising approximately 4,500 social prescribing link workers.

NHSE/I and NASP work closely together to spread best practice around the country. In addition to NHSE/I’s regional support for health and care systems, NASP also has a great regional Thriving Communities programme. This programme works with the NHS to support small community organisations, bringing together a whole host of partners such as Sports England, the Arts Council, the Money and Pensions Advisory Service, Historic England and Natural England.

What will be the role of social prescribing in the aftermath of COVID-19?
I think social prescribing will be a key tool in recovering from the pandemic, which has sadly had a huge impact on the nation’s physical and mental health. The programme not only helps us address health inequalities but also wider determinants of health, such as stress and loneliness. Ultimately, it helps people connect or reconnect with their local communities.

In particular, I think green social prescribing – with a focus on nature-based activities – will be vital in the coming months and years. This can range from things such as walking schemes and community gardening projects, to green gyms, forest bathing and outdoor arts activities.

As part of a £5.77m government project – working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Health and Social Care, Natural England, Public Health England, NASP, Sport England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – we’ve launched seven ‘test and learn’ sites across the country this year to see how green social prescribing could be implemented more widely.

At what point in the process do you see health clubs and gyms having a role?
Lockdown has meant more inactivity and simultaneously fewer opportunities to access services such as gyms, which will now hopefully play a significant role in restoring access to traditional physical activities.

Our partnership with ukactive is an important step in connecting social prescribing with fitness and leisure activities. With free gym and leisure sessions being offered for up to 100,000 people through social prescribing, more people will be able to access a whole range of local physical activities to help them stay fit and healthy. This can only be a good thing.

I’m sure we’re also going to see gyms and similar services finding new ways to deliver services to encourage more people to become more active. There are great opportunities for gyms to work alongside social prescribing link workers, health and wellbeing coaches and local communities to develop creative alternatives that can boost physical and mental health outcomes.

What other things can the health club sector do to support the NHS agenda?
For me, it’s about planning leisure opportunities around what matters to the community and being less prescriptive and more willing to develop bespoke services – designed with local people – to create community-led services to address the challenges. 

It’s also really important for the health club sector to support employees in developing new skills, as well as allowing them to take a more personalised approach. There are clear opportunities here for the NHS and the sector to work closely together, particularly as we’re all working towards similar goals.

What would be your call to action to the health club sector as a whole?
I’d like to see the sector help champion the social prescribing agenda, as a route to getting more people engaged in physical activity.
Collaboration is ultimately at the heart of the programme. Social prescribing’s strength is built on working alongside the communities where people live their lives. It’s not just the opportunity to bring people together, but about creating interactions that are social, active and fun.

Further reading
Test & learn

Seven locations will receive a share of a £5.5m UK government investment pot to research how nature can be used to improve mental health and wellbeing.
www.HCMmag.com/nature

ukactive partnership

Physical activity will play a greater role in helping people look after their health and wellbeing due to a partnership between ukactive, NHS England and Improvement Sport England and the National Academy for Social Prescribing to highlight the role of fitness within social prescribing.
www.HCMmag.com/100k

photo: james sanderson

James Sanderson is CEO of the National Academy of Social Prescribing and director of personalised care for NHS Improvement and NHS England

Prescriptions can range from walking and gardening, to befriending / photo: shutterstock/jacob lund
Prescriptions can range from walking and gardening, to befriending / photo: shutterstock/jacob lund
The goal is for 900k people a year to benefit from social prescribing / photo: shutterstock/halfpoint
The goal is for 900k people a year to benefit from social prescribing / photo: shutterstock/halfpoint
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2021/990008_595103.jpg
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features

Interview: James Sanderson

Gyms have a role to play in collaborating with the social prescribing movement to improve the nation’s health, the CEO of the UK’s National Academy of Social Prescribing tells Kate Cracknell

Published in Health Club Management 2021 issue 9
Social prescribing link workers can help address a person’s social needs / photo: shutterstock/mladen zivkovic
Social prescribing link workers can help address a person’s social needs / photo: shutterstock/mladen zivkovic
I’d like to see the gym sector help champion the social prescribing agenda, as a route to getting more people engaged in physical activity

What is social prescribing and how does it work?
Social prescribing is a great new way to help people look after their physical and mental health. GPs and other agencies can refer patients to a social prescribing link worker, who in turn can connect them to a variety of community groups and activities for practical, social and emotional support.

This creates a powerful bridge between health services and the local community and allows people more control over their wellbeing in a way that suits them. The services offered are wide-ranging but can include things such as physical activity, healthy eating advice, arts activities, gardening, cooking classes and befriending schemes.

Is social prescribing the answer to growing health inequalities across the UK?
The National Health Service is moving towards more personalised care and social prescribing is a key part of that – particularly in tackling health inequality. At least one in five GP appointments are about wider social needs rather than just medical issues.

Through social prescribing, we can support people facing these problems by connecting them to community groups, support services or activities that can address these wider issues, on top of improving their physical and mental health.

What’s the relationship between NHS England and the NASP?
Essentially, NHS England and NHS Improvement’s role is to implement commitments made in the NHS Long Term Plan and set the future direction.
We support social prescribing link workers, primary care and integrated care systems to implement social prescribing right across England. We work with a number of partners to achieve this, including the National Academy of Social Prescribing (NASP).

NASP was launched by the UK government in October 2019. It creates partnerships across a variety of sectors to promote the kind of services we’ve talked about and is a brilliant champion for social prescribing and the work of local communities.

What’s your personal vision for social prescribing?
I think the social prescribing movement gives us a unique opportunity to rebalance health and wellbeing activity. It provides us with clear ways to deliver psychosocial support alongside more traditional, medical interventions. There’s growing evidence of the power of social prescribing to transform lives and I hope we can enable as many people as possible to achieve their health goals through the programme.
  
Can you give some examples of best practice social prescribing?
I was personally really moved by the story of Patrick, a 75-year-old dad and husband from Stockport who had retired and felt he’d lost his purpose in life (www.HCMmag.com/patrick). He said he felt he couldn’t carry on and his wife made him an appointment with his doctor, who was able to give him a social prescription and put him in touch with his link worker.

Patrick subsequently joined the bowling club, did a Men Matters holistic health course, managed to cook his wife a meal after a cooking lesson and now joins others on weekly walks. He says he’s now in a much better place and for me, it’s hearing stories like this that makes me so proud of the programme and what can be achieved.

How localised are the networks, and how will you scale best practice?
NHS England & Improvement (NHSE/I) has committed to rolling out social prescribing and funding link workers across England. The ambition in our long-term plan is that over 900,000 people a year will be referred to social prescribing by 2023/24, which would mean organising approximately 4,500 social prescribing link workers.

NHSE/I and NASP work closely together to spread best practice around the country. In addition to NHSE/I’s regional support for health and care systems, NASP also has a great regional Thriving Communities programme. This programme works with the NHS to support small community organisations, bringing together a whole host of partners such as Sports England, the Arts Council, the Money and Pensions Advisory Service, Historic England and Natural England.

What will be the role of social prescribing in the aftermath of COVID-19?
I think social prescribing will be a key tool in recovering from the pandemic, which has sadly had a huge impact on the nation’s physical and mental health. The programme not only helps us address health inequalities but also wider determinants of health, such as stress and loneliness. Ultimately, it helps people connect or reconnect with their local communities.

In particular, I think green social prescribing – with a focus on nature-based activities – will be vital in the coming months and years. This can range from things such as walking schemes and community gardening projects, to green gyms, forest bathing and outdoor arts activities.

As part of a £5.77m government project – working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Department of Health and Social Care, Natural England, Public Health England, NASP, Sport England and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – we’ve launched seven ‘test and learn’ sites across the country this year to see how green social prescribing could be implemented more widely.

At what point in the process do you see health clubs and gyms having a role?
Lockdown has meant more inactivity and simultaneously fewer opportunities to access services such as gyms, which will now hopefully play a significant role in restoring access to traditional physical activities.

Our partnership with ukactive is an important step in connecting social prescribing with fitness and leisure activities. With free gym and leisure sessions being offered for up to 100,000 people through social prescribing, more people will be able to access a whole range of local physical activities to help them stay fit and healthy. This can only be a good thing.

I’m sure we’re also going to see gyms and similar services finding new ways to deliver services to encourage more people to become more active. There are great opportunities for gyms to work alongside social prescribing link workers, health and wellbeing coaches and local communities to develop creative alternatives that can boost physical and mental health outcomes.

What other things can the health club sector do to support the NHS agenda?
For me, it’s about planning leisure opportunities around what matters to the community and being less prescriptive and more willing to develop bespoke services – designed with local people – to create community-led services to address the challenges. 

It’s also really important for the health club sector to support employees in developing new skills, as well as allowing them to take a more personalised approach. There are clear opportunities here for the NHS and the sector to work closely together, particularly as we’re all working towards similar goals.

What would be your call to action to the health club sector as a whole?
I’d like to see the sector help champion the social prescribing agenda, as a route to getting more people engaged in physical activity.
Collaboration is ultimately at the heart of the programme. Social prescribing’s strength is built on working alongside the communities where people live their lives. It’s not just the opportunity to bring people together, but about creating interactions that are social, active and fun.

Further reading
Test & learn

Seven locations will receive a share of a £5.5m UK government investment pot to research how nature can be used to improve mental health and wellbeing.
www.HCMmag.com/nature

ukactive partnership

Physical activity will play a greater role in helping people look after their health and wellbeing due to a partnership between ukactive, NHS England and Improvement Sport England and the National Academy for Social Prescribing to highlight the role of fitness within social prescribing.
www.HCMmag.com/100k

photo: james sanderson

James Sanderson is CEO of the National Academy of Social Prescribing and director of personalised care for NHS Improvement and NHS England

Prescriptions can range from walking and gardening, to befriending / photo: shutterstock/jacob lund
Prescriptions can range from walking and gardening, to befriending / photo: shutterstock/jacob lund
The goal is for 900k people a year to benefit from social prescribing / photo: shutterstock/halfpoint
The goal is for 900k people a year to benefit from social prescribing / photo: shutterstock/halfpoint
https://www.leisureopportunities.co.uk/images/2021/990008_595103.jpg
The director of personalised care for NHS England and CEO of the National Academy of Social Prescribing talks about the role of health clubs
Latest News
Boxx has launched a new generation punch bag and smart punch trackers that work with ...
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Latest News
The global wellness economy will grow by 9.9 per cent annually and reach US$7trn by ...
Latest News
Inclusive Fitness Boston, a health club created specifically for those with disabilities and their families, ...
Latest News
The Women in Fitness Association (WIFA), is partnering with Sport Alliance to undertake a survey ...
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Location and cost are the top considerations for consumers when it comes to choosing a ...
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Opinion
promotion
FitnessOnDemand’s divisional vice president Uday Anumalachetty discusses what live fitness really means for clubs and their members today
Opinion: Why we need to reimagine what live fitness really means
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Revamped Fitline Maassluis health club equipped by Core Health & Fitness
An iconic Dutch fitness centre that first opened 32 years ago has received an extensive overhaul following a vicious fire.
Featured supplier news
Featured supplier news: Now is the time for whole-body EMS
Electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) Training will drive secondary revenue and increase PT penetration. It will accelerate and improve outcomes for users as well as build confidence with people who are struggling to get back to training post lockdown.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Sporting heroes to officially open £22 million redevelopment at Everyone Active centre
A £22 million redevelopment project will be unveiled at Grange Paddocks Leisure Centre, as part of the official launch of the state-of-the-art centre.
Featured operator news
Featured operator news: Everyone Active successfully reopens exercise referral scheme thanks to EXi partnership
Local authority leisure provider Everyone Active has reopened its essential exercise referral scheme, by joining forces with EXi, the NHS-approved exercise prescription app and data portal.
Video Gallery
Physical Company Ltd
Mindbody, Inc
Total Vibration Solutions / Floors 4 Gyms / TVS Sports Surfaces
Company profiles
Company profile: Art of Cryo
Art of Cryo is a new division of a renowned family business with 30 years’ ...
Company profiles
Company profile: Matrix Fitness
Matrix provides innovative commercial fitness equipment to facilities in all market sectors including private health ...
Catalogue Gallery
Click on a catalogue to view it online
Directory
Spa software
SpaBooker: Spa software
trade associations
International SPA Association - iSPA: trade associations
Fitness equipment
Precor: Fitness equipment
Whole body cryotherapy
Art of Cryo: Whole body cryotherapy
Red Light Therapy
 Red Light Rising: Red Light Therapy
Wearable technology solutions
MyZone: Wearable technology solutions
Skincare
Comfort Zone - Davines S.p.A: Skincare
Architects/designers
Zynk Design Consultants: Architects/designers
Salt therapy products
Saltability: Salt therapy products
Management software
Premier Software Solutions: Management software
Property & Tenders
Welwyn Garden City
Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council
Property & Tenders
Newport, Shropshire
Lilleshall Sports Academy
Property & Tenders
Diary dates
01-03 Feb 2022
Coventry Building Society Arena, Coventry, United Kingdom
Diary dates
07-10 Apr 2022
Exhibition Centre , Cologne, Germany
Diary dates
15-16 Jun 2022
ExCeL London, London, United Kingdom
Diary dates
01-07 Dec 2022
tbc, Dunedin, New Zealand
Diary dates
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