Why we're investing in supporting healthcare professionals
Evidence shows that one in four people would be more active if advised by a GP or nurse, yet nearly three quarters of GPs don't speak about the benefits of physical activity to their patients because of either a lack of knowledge, skills or confidence with 80% reporting being unfamiliar with the national physical activity guidelines.
This can be linked to a lack of training and support, with less than half confident in the area and more than half having not received specific training. Healthcare professionals can reach a large percentage of the population. More than one in 10 people visit their GP every two weeks and there are 1.2 million health-related visits to a community pharmacy every day.
There are over 650,000 healthcare professionals in the country who are estimated to each see nearly half a million patients during their career. They’re also considered a trusted source of advice, so what they say about physical activity and how they raise it as a topic could have a big impact on activity levels.
In addition, people who are regularly engaging with healthcare professionals (those with, or at risk of, developing health conditions) are far more likely to be inactive and are also more likely to be key target audiences that we’ve identified. For example, people facing the highest level of economic disadvantage have a 60% higher prevalence of health conditions compared to those facing the least economic disadvantage, and 30% more severity of disease.
The absence of physical activity across the training spectrum from basic training to continuing professional development for healthcare professionals has been a major blocker in normalising conversations about physical activity in healthcare settings, alongside perceptions of the time available to incorporate conversations in practice and concerns about risk.
But the opportunity to make a difference is huge. If one in four of the inactive population received and acted on advice from their healthcare professional there would 2.9 million less inactive adults in England who would be gaining the benefits of moving more.
With an increasing number of people living with and managing long-term conditions and the strong evidence base for physical activity as a prevention and treatment tool it is important that healthcare professionals have the knowledge, skills and confidence to have physical activity conversations with patients.