Article Written By Katey Burnett, RN, Nurse Physical Activity Clinical Champion, Yorkshire and Humber
Across the country CSPs are working with ‘Clinical Champions’ to increase knowledge and change clinical practice of healthcare professionals to embed physical activity and signposting to local activities into patient care. This is a unique opportunity for CSPs and local authorities to engage the most inactive and improve health and sport and physical activity outcomes at local level.
The health benefits of physical activity are well documented. However despite its preventative and treatable properties on a number of diseases, health professionals are less likely to raise the issue of physical activity with patients compared with other modifiable health behaviours such as smoking and diet. 1 in 4 patients would be more active if advised by a GP or nurse, but a recent Public Health England survey of 1,000 GPs demonstrated that as many as 72% of GPs do not speak about the benefits of physical activity to patients and that only 1 in 5 doctors and nurses were broadly or very familiar with the Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines.
The national framework for physical activity, Everybody Active, Every Day identifies four domains in which action is needed to create a more active nation. One of these, the ‘Moving Professionals’ domain, aims to increase the knowledge, skills and confidence of all public-facing professionals and volunteers, from all sectors and disciplines, to help make a step-change in the country’s physical activity levels. Some of the sectors in a good position to lead and influence include sport and leisure, as well as health and social care.
To further this aim Public Health England, in partnership with both Sport England and the Burdett Trust for Nursing, have developed the Physical Activity Clinical Champion Programme. The programme consists of a national network of 38 multi-disciplinary health professionals offering free, locally-based peer-to-peer training sessions to doctors, nurses and other allied health professionals. The programme aims to develop clinicians’ understanding of physical activity, and equip them with the skills to deliver physical activity advice to their patients.
Crucially, sessions are intended to be delivered in conjunction with local authorities and CSPs. Working together gives the LA or CSP the opportunity to access groups of health professionals and provide up-to-date information, including website information and/or leaflets, on local sport initiatives, facilities and resources. Health care professionals’ lack of knowledge of local services has been identified as a barrier to advising patients to become more active. Having current information can increase their confidence to discuss physical activity with patients because they can then give specific information on what, where and how to access services.
Working with the Clinical Champions programme is an opportunity for the sport and physical activity sector to reach doctors, nurses and other health care professionals, who are in a unique position of trust to advise people who are often suffering from poor health, and for whom small improvements in physical activity could make a significant change to their health. This can make a particular difference to people with disabilities and long-term conditions, who are more likely to be inactive. Sport England’s strategy Toward an Active Nation prioritises engagement of health care professionals as an opportunity to engage inactive people.
I recently delivered a session to a team of nurse practitioners from several different practices in Harrogate. Simon Pierce from North Yorkshire Sport utilised the platform to introduce a new initiative aiming to increase physical activity in older people. Simon explained that referrals to the service by health professionals is paramount to the success of the new service. He later said that the opportunity to present the service, discuss the referral process and provide contact details was invaluable. His is but one of many examples of collaboration between the LA or CSP and the Clinical Champions programme to empower healthcare professionals, and by extension their patients, through improved knowledge of local initiatives.
Over 13,000 healthcare professionals across the country have already benefitted from this training. Bookings for sessions are currently taking place until 31st August 2018.
For further information on this programme, or to be put in contact with your local Physical Activity Clinical Champions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org