News | Published April 18 2020

Part One: Chief Executive of Wave Leisure Trust: “Consideration must also be given to the long-term impact of the coronavirus lock-down on the health of the nation”

Wave Leisure Trust, a charity and social enterprise based in East Sussex, has worked to improve the development of health and wellbeing in the community since their foundation in 2006. Faced with new challenges as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Duncan Kerr, the charity’s chief executive, writes about the importance of financial support, the value of fitness and Boris Johnson in the first part of a series for The Parliamentary Review.

As ukactive calls for urgent support from the government to save the physical activity sector, operators are struggling to survive without financial support. Consideration must also be given to the long-term impact of the coronavirus lock-down on the health of the nation and how we need to re-imagine and deliver a new national health and wellbeing service.

Irrespective of our political persuasions, clearly the fact that our prime minister, Boris Johnson is out of hospital and recovering is good news. Key positive messages conveyed by his Westminster colleagues during his time in hospital, supported the belief that he would make a full recovery based on the knowledge that he was “fit” and a “fighter”. Encouraging to know that Dominic Raab, for one, understands the potential health benefits of being “fit” when fighting a serious illness.

There is no doubt that our NHS provided, and will continue to provide, excellent care and support to the prime minister and all its patients to ensure they have every chance of making a full recovery. If we embrace both the sentiment and belief that fitness is presented as a positive contributing factor, then perhaps we have now reached the point where we should embrace the contribution the physical activity sector brings to the current healthcare system. We must build on the work done to date, and forge new ways of working for the benefit of people across the UK.

Within the physical activity sector there are highly skilled staff already part of that primary healthcare pathway who are doing excellent work in preventative and rehabilitation healthcare. However, it is limited, under-utilised and underfunded. If we could embrace the opportunity, in a similar way to how pharmacists have stepped into a supporting role, the potential impacts could be significant, not only with physical health but also, mental and emotional health.

In addition to the direct health benefits of the patient or service user, there could be significant impact on the time resource on other mainstream health care teams, for example GPs, nurses and consultants. It is well understood that a GP’s time is a precious resource and if we were able to develop current provision into a much enhanced “hand-in-hand” service, the impact could be revolutionary. This model could be beneficial not just with Covid-19 but across other conditions such as cardiac, stroke, cancer, mental and emotional health, conditions the sector has and continues to support. One seamless pathway paying respect to the individual specialisms and recognising the contribution different sectors can make a significant difference to positive health outcomes of the patient and service user.

By linking resources, new, in the community healthcare teams could work, hand-in-hand in a proactive and dynamic way; person centred, focused on positive, physical, mental and emotional wellbeing outcomes through effective treatment including, participation in relevant and appropriate physical activity.

If we genuinely believe that a patient’s health outcome is improved on the back of fitness levels, then it would seem to make sense to embrace and celebrate the skills and experience the physical activity sector could bring to the NHS.

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Authored by

Duncan Kerr
Chief executive, Wave Leisure Trust
April 18 2020

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