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EXERCISE REFERRAL YESTERDAY, TODAY TOMORROW A summary of the history, development, practice and evidence . By Malcolm - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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EXERCISE REFERRAL YESTERDAY, TODAY & TOMORROW? A summary of the history, development, practice and evidence . By Malcolm Ward & Huw Brunt. EXERCISE REFERRAL. Started 1991 (Hailsham) Leisure instigated (Marketing ploy) 800+ schemes across UK (CIP, 2005)

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A summary of the history, development, practice and evidence .


Malcolm Ward & Huw Brunt

Exercise referral

  • Started 1991 (Hailsham)

  • Leisure instigated (Marketing ploy)

  • 800+ schemes across UK (CIP, 2005)

  • 16 Schemes in Wales? (14 Supported by NPHS)

  • Early evaluations very promising.

  • By 2001 Concerns leading to DoH Quality Assurance Guidelines


  • 2005 WAG guidance.

  • 2006 NICE Guidance

  • WAG launch National Programme.

Exercise referral1

  • Various models (Predominantly ‘Hailsham/ Oasis’), also multi-disciplinary teams, disease focussed (LIFT) & variations on the themes.

  • Common Key features – 12 week intervention, Inclusion & Exclusion criteria, Leisure Centre/ Gym focus, Direct referrals initiated by GP’s/ Practice nurses, GPs carry out initial assessments, +/- Consent Forms

  • Evidence suggests effective 6 – 8 weeks only. (NICE, 2006)

  • What is ‘effectiveness’? – No’s of patients, retention, increases in physical activity, fitness, health gains, cost effective?

  • Few robust research based evaluations.


  • The NICE guidance published in March 2006 provided 2 evidence statements:

  • The evidence from 2 RCTs (1-) suggests that exercise referral schemes, involving a referral, either from or within primary care, can have positive effects on physical activity levels in the short term (6-12 weeks)

  • However, the evidence from four trials (one 1++, three 1-) indicates that such referral schemes are ineffective in increasing physical activity levels in the longer term (over 12 weeks) or over a very long timeframe (over 1 year).

  • A gap in the evidence base that they identified was the "Effect of follow-up on long term changes in physical activity.

  • As a result of this the Public Health Interventions Advisory Committee (PHIAC) at NICE determined that there was insufficient evidence to recommend the use of exercise referral schemes to promote physical activity, other than as part of research studies where their effectiveness can be evaluated.


  • £300k (BLF funded) multi-agency scheme established in Sept. 2004

  • Aims to provide physical opportunities to support the primary prevention of CHD amongst those at risk of developing the condition

  • 12 week gym-based intervention

  • Referrals from primary care (21/36 practices recruited), diabetes & cardiac rehabilitation clinics

  • Referral criteria: inactivity, high cholesterol, hypertension, smoking, overweight/obese, family history, diabetes, insulin glucose tolerance (IGT) / insulin fasting glucose (IFG)

  • Evaluation to assess the quality of the intervention (in terms of effectiveness, efficiency, equity and appropriateness)


  • 362 referrals between Sept. 04 and Mar. 06

  • Referral criteria broad, subjective and under reported. 17% of obese or overweight patients missed (based on known BMI measurements)

  • Of all patients referred:

    - 53% (n=192) accessed, 10% (n=37) completed

    - Of the 10% completing, 4% (n=13) took out memberships

    - 13% (n=47) failed to start and 23% (n=82) dropped out

  • On 23/10/06, 21% (n=75) had completed 12 week programme


  • Compliance decreased as time increased

  • Patient compliance varied between delivery venues (scheme days/times)

  • Qualitative feedback around medium & long-term lifestyle changes e.g. lost weight, feel better, confident, able to walk more & further

  • Few patients recalled being offered advice about activities to do outside the scheme


  • At 12 weeks, average waist circumference reduction of 4.9cm (M) and 5.9cm (F)

  • Suggests reduced risk of CHD & other chronic disease development

  • 0/127 referrals from 7 practices overlapped with the 254 patients identified as being at a greater than 25% risk of developing CHD

  • Cost effectiveness of scheme difficult to assess, but calculations suggest that scheme is not sustainable in long-term

  • Logical to think that scheme may reduce burden on local services

Heartlinks key differences
HEARTLINKSKey Differences

  • Patients seen at baseline, 1,3, 6 & 12 months (more if necessary)

  • Direct Referrals (Primary & secondary care, smoking cessation, back to work programmes, community pharmacists, self-referral) & Mail-outs.

  • All assessments & paperwork done by project officer (sports scientist) at initial consultation.

  • Activity Programme ‘negotiated’ with patient includes home-based exercise, walking schemes, gentle exercise classes, aquafit, subsidised leisure passes (private & LA) – Progression inc. Mix & Match.

  • All info relayed to GP for opportunity to veto.

  • Economic Evaluation

  • 12 month programme

Heartlinks assessment
HEARTLINKS - Assessment

  • Stage of Change.

  • Physiological: Ht, Wt, BMI, B/P, lipid profile (where provided).

  • Cardiac Risk: Calmheart Scores (inc. pa levels)

  • Physical Activity levels (Self-report & IPAQ)

  • General Health (SF36)

  • Reason for Referral

Heartlinks results

  • 276 patients assessed: 246 patients accepted onto programme - 87 ‘dropped out’ (35%)

  • 65 completed 12 months (so far).

  • 13/13 Practices referring.

  • 28% reduction in CHD risk (relative): 11% absolute risk reduction.

  • 11 fold increase in physical activity (sustained OVER 12 MONTHS)

  • Significant reduction in ‘Physical’ component of SF36 scores.

  • Significant reduction in Systolic B/P


  • High support = Low recruitment rate & low turn over.


  • Two models explored: emerging evidence of scheme benefits

  • Data collection/capture should be improved and standardised

  • Importance of qualitative and quantitative information in determining medium and long-term consequences of scheme

  • Patients can be supported in medium and long-term but need to balance quantity & quality

  • Multi-agency – LA and primary care involvement is critical but schemes should not be wholly reliant on LA delivery

  • Referrals should be targeted and prioritised (capacity issues)

  • Patients should have choice of activities and be encouraged to use activities in everyday life, but issues around qualifications and regulation