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Sport for Confidence programme recognised for success in NHS strategy

Tuesday 31 January 2017

Sport For Confidence, a pioneering initiative, which sees an Occupational Therapist based in a leisure centre to support people with learning disabilities to participate in mainstream sporting activities, has been recognised in the ‘Allied Health Professionals Into Action‘ Strategy document published by NHS England.


This unique partnership between healthcare professionals, leisure centres and local sports clubs sees Occupational Therapists (OT) working directly with sports coaches and staff, to make adjustments that create truly accessible sport and leisure opportunities.

Suzanne Rastrick, Chief Allied Health Professions Officer (CAHPO) for England, says:

“Allied Health professionals into Action demonstrates a shared commitment to make greater use of the full range of allied health professionals in all aspects of service delivery to promote the adoption of new ways of working across the health and care system and to improve patient care.”

The new guidance provides a blueprint for Clinical Commissioning Groups, provider organisations, health leaders and local authorities to fully involve AHPs in transformation programmes and the delivery of NHS England’s Five Year Forward View. It offers 53 examples of AHPs working to drive and support change by working innovatively. Sport for Confidence is included as a case study which demonstrates the significant cost saving to the NHS by investing in its programme of preventative care rather than treating long term sickness and incapacity to work.

Working closely with Community Teams, including day centres and care homes, and other AHPs including physiotherapists and Community Learning Disabilities Teams, Sport For Confidence runs a range of sports and physical activity sessions via leisure centres across Essex, attracting more than 500 participants per month, both with and without learning disabilities. Sports on offer include trampolining, boccia, cricket, fencing, multi-sports and New Age Kurling. All sessions are paid for by the individuals and the programme is supported by a £100,000 funding grant from Public Health Essex.

Speaking about the inclusion in the NHS Strategy document, Lyndsey Barrett, a senior occupational therapist and founder and leader of Sport for Confidence, says:

“Our ambition is to place an occupational therapist (OT) in every leisure centre in the country. Financial evaluations have proved that this method of preventative health care can save the NHS up to £765 per individual across a 20-session period.* This is significant when multiples are applied. Involving just 1,500 participants in our programme could save the NHS more than £1,000,000.

The Strategy places an emphasis on the value of preventative health care. Steve Ward, Executive Director at ukactive, adds:

“Sport For Confidence is a fantastic example of how leisure operators, specialist enterprises, the health sector and local authorities can work together to achieve central and local Government physical activity and health objectives. Preventative health care needs to be at the forefront of our NHS Strategy and the Allied Health Professionals into Action report demonstrates exactly how this could work, providing a multitude of case studies and collaboration examples.”

Through partnerships with Everyone Active, Fusion Lifestyle and Essex County Council, Sport For Confidence is offering regular sessions at 7 leisure facilities across Essex. Basildon Sporting Village, managed by Everyone Active, was the first centre in the country to pioneer the Sport For Confidence model. General Manager, Tom Fletcher, says:

“Partnering with Sport For Confidence has enabled us to reach segments of the community we would not have otherwise been able to reach.  Our aim is to provide inclusive sporting facilities for all and working with an allied health professional has helped us to achieve this.”

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