Camden Council adapts Exercise on Referral programme
On 1st April 2016 the public health functions of the boroughs of Camden and Islington were integrated, bringing both Council’s services under one umbrella. In spite of this upheaval the combined Councils have continued to seamlessly deliver their EOR programmes, using Camden’s online EOR software to provide referrals and track participants’ progress.
Since its inception ten years ago, Camden Council has continued to adapt, rationalise and refine its approach to its EOR programme, from paper based to an online system, bringing EOR software specialist ReferAll on board in 2010.
Reflecting on the changes to EOR Stephan von Schilling, Public Health Interventions Manager at Camden Council, explained: “Ten years ago we had to justify EOR as a valid and meaningful intervention. The barrier was often gaining the GP’s permission for their patients to exercise. We have come a long way since then. Many GPs are now champions for EOR and pass on referrals to patients in a continuous and natural way, showing just how well established referral pathways have become in primary care.
“Since the merger, changes have been made to our EOR programme to reflect the new Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) set by Camden & Islington Public Health. These include changes in how health improvement services for adults are accessed and delivered, with greater integration through primary care services, as well as the need to invest in prevention of the threats posed by obesity and lack of exercise.
“We continue to provide a wide variety of programmes to participants, including traditional gym-based programmes alongside activities like gardening, via our Green Gyms programme. But we have used this change as an opportunity to play to our strengths by partnering with Aquaterra Leisure to deliver the gym-based programmes and have established a new role for the Camden Council Commissioned Services team as a hub-triaging centre for referrals, rather than direct delivery.”
The Council provides flexible appointments at venues across Camden and Islington. At the end of the twelve-week programme, nine months of free support is available from coaches to help participants adhere to their new lifestyle, including monthly catch-up sessions and motivational texts. Participants are also eligible to a heavily discounted gym membership at leisure centres in Camden or Islington.
Since the programme’s inception over 5,000 patients have been referred to the EOR programme. The free twelve-week programme of exercise is designed to encourage participants to become more active and to improve mental health and overall wellbeing.
Throughout the changes, one constant has been Camden’s EOR software support. Stephan von Schilling said: “We were one of ReferAll’s first clients. As a company they understand the business of public health very well, providing us with a simple and effective tool that tracks each participant’s journey with us. We have a very good working relationship with them, which we value. If we request an upgrade, it is already in hand. They are very proactive in their approach.
“Following all the changes in April, we decided we really didn’t need to look afresh for a software supplier. Our needs hadn’t changed. There was and continues to be one critical aspect: before 2010 we were swamped with paper as all our referrals arrived by fax or post – something that shouldn’t be happening in the 21st century. Healthcare remains very paper-driven but we wanted to move away from this. We wanted GPs to be able to refer online quickly and easily. With ReferAll we could help GPs track patients to see if they adhered to exercise and, if they did, how many sessions they attended. Now, in 2016, we no longer have any paper referrals, everything is done online.”
Staff at Camden Council have also benefitted from the change to online referral: “The physical movement of paperwork around filing cabinets to track patient progress no longer exists. We used to move from the week one cabinet to the cabinet for week two and so on. This shift from paper to online referrals gave staff a real sense of excitement. It changed their day-to-day work from paper sifting to patient facing time, making their job more satisfying. It also took away concerns over lost paperwork.
“The effectiveness of the ReferAll system has been clearly highlighted since the changes to our team in April, with new staff members joining and streamlining of existing employees. New team members have taken to the system really quickly and easily, which is indicative of how intuitive the ReferAll system is.”
Looking to the future, Camden Council’s aspirations remain ambitious: “We are always aiming for better integration with GP systems so that the referral process can become truly seamless. The goal would be for a GP to click in their system and complete the Exercise on Referral application. We would receive it and place the patient on the scheme. The leisure centre software would be integrated so that, once the participant has completed the programme, if they take up gym membership it would seamlessly interact with the EOR software at the participant’s exit point from the programme. This means we could manage that individual as a life long member and establish a true evidence base for activity.”