Dr Sandip Pramanik
GP at Attenborough Surgery

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Attenborough surgery are strong supporters of the Active Herts initiative. We adopt a holistic approach when we see patients as we believe exercise and dietary changes play a big role in managing chronic conditions and preventing physical and mental ill health. We have had good feedback from patients who have been referred to the Active Herts programme as many of them have not been offered help and support with their diet and exercise before. 

We have found that there is often a mental block from some patients who are apprehensive about become active as this can overwhelming. However with support from their GP and the Active Herts project they are getting the help they need to take that step into a healthier lifestyle. The fact that consultation sessions are held at their local surgery makes the process less daunting and we have seen a big uptake from patients because of this ease of access.   

We have developed a system where a referral can be achieved in just a few minutes by adding a template to our current IT system. This allows us to deal with the main reason the patient has presented with but also to do a referral to the Active Herts programme at the end of the appointment. We believe that Active Herts has a vital role in helping patients with a range of long term conditions as regular exercise can help to reduce weight, improve confidence and help people cope better with stress and depression.

The appointments are an hour long which is very helpful as it gives patients enough time to talk through their barriers with the Get Active Specialists and come up with a plan of action. As GP’s we only have 10 minutes for a patient appointment so we value the extra time the patient has with the Specialist as it takes some of the stain off Doctors and allows us to deal with more complex medical problems. 

We would like to continue our relationship with the Active Herts project and due to the success of the scheme we would even consider offering more sessions once we expand our surgery.

Dr Alison Jackson
Locality Co-Chair Lower Lea Valley
and GP at The Maples

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Demand in general practice is going up particularly with conditions that could easily be self-managed if people had the right support. There is also a culture to over-treat and over-medicate which can lead to unwanted side effects, adverse drug reactions and polypharmacy.

So why don’t GPs advise people to do more physical activity? One big factor is time. Within the constraints of a 10 minute consultation, this limits healthcare professionals to give some advice and motivate patients to go on and effectively self-manage their condition. GPs also are met with a myriad of reasons why people cannot do physical activity such as cost, time and chronic pain. Generally, GPs do not have the right knowledge and information of what appropriate activities are available in their local area so some services can be underutilised as a result and are not used by the people who need it the most.

Since the practice has signed up to the Active Herts scheme, I now have a system in place, in which I am able to refer any patient who is physically inactive to Active Herts as part of their management plan. Having the option of referring patients into the Active Herts programme has really helped particularly in the management of certain diseases such as hypertension, type 2 diabetes which is linked to obesity and with psychological problems, particularly stress and anxiety/depression. This also supports the care planning process.

The process is really easy by filling in a simple form and giving it to the Get Active Specialist who attends the practice on a weekly basis. The patient is then contacted to arrange a free consultation. The programme gives a person-centred approach, in which time is given to understand the patient’s needs and how activity can be tailored so they are able to meet their personal goals. This will give them better health and wellbeing outcomes and enable them to better self –manage their long term conditions in the future.

From my experience, people who fit the criteria have welcomed this intervention and very few decline. It also means that as a practice we are able to promote prevention to improve patients’ lifestyles and empower them to look after their own health. As a result they will not rely on the GP or primary care as often as their problems will be better managed.

Dr Alison Jackson
Locality Co-Chair Lower Lea
GP at The Maples, Broxbourne

Dr Angel Marie Chater
Reader in Health Psychology and Behaviour Change
University of Bedfordshire

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The Herts Active programme has incorporated evidence-based and theoretically driven strategies and methodologies from behavioural science and health psychology. These approach helps staff to understand clients’ needs, fears and desires to enable and support behaviour change in relation to physical activity.  We have integrated Motivational Interviewing through the core of this initiative, training the team of Get Active Specialists in an approach that assists self-generated reflection, direction and intrinsic motivation. These are proven techniques to help patients and clients to take responsibility for their own health behaviours and change them for the better to enable longer term health improvement.

An additional strength of Active Herts is the application of academic and scientific methodologies to a real world setting.  One objective of this, is to carry out evaluation and research from a number of academic partners that, overtime, will demonstrate the success of the project.