We Are Undefeatable research also tells us that almost 25% of people with LTHCs look to the NHS for trusted advice on how to get active.
And whilst our latest Active Lives Survey highlights a welcome return to pre-pandemic activity levels for adults, you’re still almost twice as likely to be inactive if you live with one or more LTHCs when compared to those without.
In fact, physical inactivity is associated with one in six deaths in the UK, and it's estimated to cost the UK £7.4 billion annually (including £0.9 billion to the NHS alone).
So, what can we do?
Physical activity can expand the capacity and capability of the health and care workforce.
According to the CIMSPA's State of the Nation report 2023 (due to be published in summer), there is a 588,000-strong paid physical activity and sport workforce, alongside millions more volunteers - 8.8m in 2018/19, according to our latest Active Lives Adult Survey - who could help to provide the 'first mile of healthcare' if fully optimised.
Furthermore, the sector’s vision for the future of public leisure reveals a renewed commitment to work with the health sector and support more people to be active in a way that works for them.
Importantly, there is some real momentum to build upon (particularly at an Integrated Care System/Partnership level), driven by the likes of Active Partnerships and drawing upon resources such as the Moving Healthcare Professionals Programme, the Royal College of General Practitioners Active Practice Charter, and the We Are Undefeatable campaign.
We’re also making great strides to build physical activity into NHS talking therapies, while supporting person-centred approaches, such as social prescribing, to deliver a range of positive health and wellbeing outcomes.
Additionally, our work to activate NHS systems is helping to open doors and enable positive change within the NHS, as reflected by the recent series of blogs on our work with the Office for Health Disparities and Disparities and NHS Horizons.
Taking an integrated approach
The forthcoming Major Conditions Strategy provides a key opportunity for physical activity to become a core part of the solution to some of the NHS’s biggest challenges.
Building on the new NHS Long Term Workforce Plan, this isn’t about adding workload to an already overstretched health system, but about doing things a little differently and together.
We’ve been listening to partners and feel there are key opportunities that can help create the right conditions for enabling positive change. These include:
- A clear, accountable leadership – nationally and locally – that, through a cross-sectoral and collaborative approach, positions physical activity as key to supporting health and care agendas and priorities. This includes a focus on preventative health, but woven into all policies that aspire to improve our health and wellbeing.
- A health and care system that prioritises physical activity as part of and alongside routine care, recognising physical inactivity as a key risk factor for poor health, and taking a systematic approach to identifying and supporting inactive patients. This includes enabling all current and future healthcare professionals to value physical activity and to feel confident in delivering evidence-based, personalised advice, and building trusted relationships and pathways between health and physical activity.
- Supporting the wider determinants of health through greater promotion, protection and utilisation of green spaces, using active design to support active travel, and the integration of physical activity into government commissioning frameworks for children, young people and families.
The NHS is part of who we are as a country. It’s part of our identity.
By reframing physical activity as part of our health and care system, we can all work to support the NHS, helping it to overcome its challenges (our challenges) so that in return it can keep helping us for another 75 years - and beyond.