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Government must back social prescribing in fitness sector says new report

A report by ukactive is calling for government to back social prescribing in gyms, pools and leisure centres to reduce pressure on the NHS.

The ‘Leading the Change: social prescribing within the fitness and leisure sector’ report, sponsored by Matrix, makes four key recommendations to develop and grow social prescribing in sector:

  1. Raise awareness of the role of gyms, pools and leisure centres in social prescribing:The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, The Richmond Group, Sport England and ukactive should collaborate to increase visibility of sector in social prescribing opportunities, focus on management of long-term health conditions and integrate with physical activity public health initiatives.
  2. Increase the knowledge of social prescribing among the physical activity workforce:Operators should ensure their workforce has strong awareness and knowledge of social prescribing, through training and using professional standards.
  3. Connect more gyms, pools and leisure facilities to community networks: National Academy for Social Prescribing, Active Partnerships, and Sport England need to work with ukactive to create resources that support sector to increase connection with cultural and community groups within local areas, which will provide opportunities for greater cross-sector partnerships.
  4. Align the sector-wide measurement of social prescribing to NHS England’s Common Outcomes Framework:ukactive, Sport England, NASP, and OHID to work collaboratively to improve data collection, ensuring consistent reporting and alignment with NHS England’s Common Outcomes Framework for measuring the impact of social prescribing.

Delivery of social prescribing across the sector will play an integral part in ukactive’s proposed shared ambition for growth with the government and partners, which would see more than five million new members of gyms, pools and leisure centres by 2030 – an increase from 15 per cent of the population in 2019 to more than 20 per cent.

“As our NHS comes under even greater pressures and the backlog for treatment grows, it is essential that we look differently at how healthcare-related physical activity could be delivered in gyms and leisure centres within our communities,” says Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive.

“Our findings indicate a strong desire and huge potential to expand social prescribing delivery within the fitness and leisure sector, but we will need the full support of the government and its agencies to support our sector, unlock the appropriate funding mechanisms, and raise awareness of these services in our facilities.”

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