Sport For Confidence, a specialist company dedicated to the provision of physical activity programmes which deliver occupational outcomes to people with and without learning disabilities, has been recognised in the ‘Allied Health Professionals Into Action‘ Strategy document published by NHS England.

The new strategy, launched by the Chief Allied Health Professions Officer (CAHPO) for England, Suzanne Rastrick, sets out how the 146,000 individuals across the 12 Allied Health Professional (AHP) groups in England, including occupational therapists, dieticians, orthoptists, paramedics and physiotherapists, can be at the forefront of innovative changes to patient care and help to shape future health policy.

Suzanne Rastrick, 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.

Founded and led by Lyndsey Barrett, a senior occupational therapist, and Stephen Mitchell, a learning and development professional, Sport For Confidence works in partnership with leisure providers and Local Authorities to place occupational therapists next to sports coaches, delivering physical activity sessions at mainstream leisure centres.

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. 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, says:

“To have our programme’s success formerly recognised in this way is incredibly rewarding and is testament to the hard work and dedication of our team.

“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.

“Allied Health Professionals have so much to offer when it comes to tackling community care issues. It’s fantastic that the CAHPO has called for innovation to find new ways of working to improve community care.”

Allied Health Professionals into Action took a collaborative approach and invited AHPs and the wider health, social and care workforce to contribute via an online platform to air their views. More than 16,000 individual contributions from 2,000 people were put forward in this way.

The Strategy, which places emphasis on the value of preventative health care, aligns perfectly to Baroness Tanni Grey Thompson’s appeal at the ukactive National Summit in November of last year. At the event, The Baroness called for Government to invest in failing leisure centres across the country to make then fit for purpose and able to work with community health and care professionals to deliver preventative health care programmes which take the strain off the struggling NHS.

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. Sports on offer include Trampolining, Boccia, Cricket, Fencing, Multi Sports and New Age Curling. Every month, sessions accommodate more than 500 people with and without learning disabilities.

Basildon Sporting Village, managed by Everyone Active, was the first centre in the country to pioneer the Sport For Confidence model.

General Manager at Basildon Sporting Village, 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.”

Find out more about the sport for confidence programme at: www.sportforconfidence.com.