The journey towards a sporting workforce that meets the needs of less active Londoners reached an important milestone today (Tuesday 23 July), with the release of a report authored by academics from the University of Kent evaluating the impact of pilot projects investigating the role of social prescribing in challenging physical inactivity.
The pilots, which were launched following commitments made in Building a Workforce for the Future, London Sport’s Strategic Plan of Action for Workforce, took place from the end of 2018 across Bexley, Kensington & Chelsea, and Islington.
The results of the report – which looked at the impact of training on Social Prescribing specialists - was unveiled at a special launch event at the Hilton London Bankside this afternoon.
The report revealed that a dedicated workshop with follow-up support raised the familiarity and confidence of Social Prescribing professionals in providing physical activity support to service users, and significantly enhanced familiarity with national guidelines around physical activity and sport.
London Sport’s Specialist Advisor for Workforce David Reader said:
“The results of this latest pilot are extremely encouraging as we continue efforts to build a workforce which will enable us to make London the world’s most active city.
“The project has demonstrated a need to support a wider workforce so that they can better facilitate people to become more active. We have shown that we can make an impact in this area.
“We look forward to expanding this pilot to even more parts of London and ensuring that the positive impacts of physical activity and sport are as widely available as possible.”
Research commissioned by London Sport in 2017 showed that to help inactive Londoners increase their levels of activity, we needed to focus on a non-traditional sporting workforce.
One such workforce is Social Prescribers, specialists who support service users through referral to non-clinical services and community-based resources.
Further study showed that Social Prescribers typically lack the confidence and knowledge to include recommendations around physical activity for less active Londoners who could benefit from greater levels of activity.
This was backed up by initial responses in the pilot which saw participants underscore the need for training in physical activity and poor familiarity with behavioural counselling in changing behaviours.
To tackle these, London Sport and researchers at the University of Kent came together in late 2018 to develop a training package to support conversations about physical activity.
The package consisted of six modules covering the benefits of physical activity, behaviour change theories, motivational interviewing and maintaining changes in behaviour.
The report found that knowledge and self-efficacy among the 51 Social Prescribers that took part was significantly improved via the one-day training workshop delivered by trainers with relevant expertise.
Social Prescribers’ knowledge, understanding and confidence in providing effective physical activity support to service users was significantly improved throughout the pilot project.
London Sport found a major increase in participants’ familiarity in the current physical activity guidelines (63.6%) and their understanding the role of behavioural counselling (55.3%).
These impressive results show a major impact and the potential across the non-sporting workforce is significant though further work will need to be done.
Questions remain around the impacts of training on patient outcomes such as their satisfaction with the therapy and whether they make a lasting change in physical activity.
That’s why London Sport will expand our work from Bexley, Islington and Kensington and Chelsea to all 33 London boroughs for the next phase of this workforce project – backed by funding from Sport England.