Let's talk getting active with patients

Sarah Dewhurst - a specialised physiotherapist and service lead from London - is marking the first Great British Week of Sport (19 – 27 September), by encouraging fellow physiotherapists to support their patients to get active and reduce the risk of serious illness, including Covid-19.

by Sarah Dewhurst

Great British Week of Sport is an initiative, led by ukactive with support from Public Health England’s (PHE) Better Health campaign and Sport England, aimed at highlighting the benefits that sport and physical activity have on people’s mental and physical wellbeing.

I’m part of a national network of 40+ Physical Activity Clinical Champions (PACCs) - made up of physiotherapists, nurses and GPs -  that works with PHE and NHS organisations to deliver free online training sessions to the healthcare workforce. Physical activity will play a key role in building the nation’s health resilience and easing pressures on the NHS.

I recently took on the role of lead PACC and I’m supporting fellow clinical champions to deliver training. Myself and fellow healthcare professionals can certainly play a leading role in supporting patients to be active. In fact, one in four people have stated that they would be more active if they were advised by a healthcare professional.

It’s important, therefore, that healthcare professionals build their skills and knowledge in this area, so that they have the confidence to advise their patients.

Anyone who knows me, will know I’m not a ‘sporty’ person. The turning point came during secondary school, when I was encouraged by a PE teacher to come along to netball practice. Eventually I got a better and was selected for the team.

Since then, exercise has always been part of my life. It has given me a sense of belonging, a means of travel, a way to manage my weight and a challenge to celebrate a milestone.

I have worked in oncology rehab for over 10 years and have seen first-hand what physical activity gives to my patients. From regaining continence, to being able to lift their grandchildren, I feel so lucky to work in a profession where I can enhance people’s lives through encouraging them to moving more.

I would encourage my peers to find out about your patient’s exercise story. What does activity mean to your patient? And how can you focus on that to help their motivation and commitment to a healthier lifestyle.

To find out how NHS organisations can book training sessions delivered by the network Physical Activity Clinical Champions, contact physicalactivity@phe.gov.uk. The online training forms part of the Moving Healthcare Professionals Programme (led by PHE and Sport England), which also offers physical activity e-learning and online resources for HCPs. To find out more, please contact the email address above.

To coincide with the Great British Week of Sport, PHE are also encouraging people to get active using the free ‘Active 10’ walking and ‘Couch to 5k’ running apps. Further support and tools suitable for all beginners is also be available on the Better Health website.

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