Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre first to achieve quality mark for exercise scheme

Left to right: Jacqui Chubb (exercise on referral coordinator, Abbeycroft Leisure), Theodora Carter

Left to right: Jacqui Chubb (exercise on referral coordinator, Abbeycroft Leisure), Theodora Carter (customer of referral programme), Matt Hickey (Abbeycroft Leisure), Elaine Beavis, (Abbeycroft client lead for right directions), Jo Rayner, (cabinet member for leisure and culture at St Edmundsbury Borough Council), James Reeder, (Suffolk County Council cabinet member for health), Warren Smyth, (chief executive, Abbeycroft Leisure) Picture: SIMON LEE - Credit: Archant

Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre has become the first exercise referral scheme in Suffolk to be awarded a new county-wide quality standard.

Exercise referral schemes allow GPs and health professionals to refer patients with long-term health conditions to a fitness programme based within the community.

The new quality standard has been developed by Suffolk County Council’s public health team and county wide partners for exercise referral schemes operating in the county.

Suffolk is the first authority in the country to develop a county-wide standard of this kind.

Warren Smyth, Abbeycroft Leisure’s chief executive, said: “I am delighted that the team at Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre are the first centre to achieve the Suffolk Exercise on Referral Quality Standard.

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“The team has worked particularly hard to develop the scheme with clinicians and this is a welcome recognition for their efforts.

“The standard is extremely important to ensure that GPs, physiotherapists and other medical practitioners can feel confident that they are referring patients into a scheme that is safe and effective.

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“The development of the quality standard is an extremely important milestone for all providers of exercise on referral schemes.”

Research by the county council’s public health team found that current exercise referral schemes are not widely used in Suffolk.

This is due to a lack of awareness among GPs of referral schemes, variations in referral protocols and an uncertainty as to whether schemes are operating in line with recommended National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines.

The new quality standard in Suffolk has been developed with input from operators, GPs and health professionals, alongside QUEST – the Sport England recommended continuous improvement tool for leisure facilities – to address these issues.

James Reeder, cabinet member for health at Suffolk County Council, said: “I would like to congratulate Bury Leisure Centre on being the first in Suffolk to achieve the new standard.

“This scheme is important in supporting people to be active and another step on our journey to become the most active county in England.

“We know that physical activity has significant benefits for health, both physical and mental, and can help to prevent and manage more than 20 chronic conditions and diseases, including some cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and depression.

“We want to highlight and showcase best practice across the county so GPs and healthcare professionals feel confident to refer patients in to exercise programmes, while also raising the profile of the excellent schemes that are available within the county.”

Jo Rayner, cabinet member for leisure and culture at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, which owns Bury St Edmunds Leisure Centre, said: “Our council has made strong and healthy communities a priority and this success is a great example of our work with partners in preventing chronic health issues.

“This standard not only supports the individual in taking responsibility for their own health, the wider spread psychological and social benefits build better quality of life for those close to the person.

“I am delighted that Abbeycroft staff have achieved this standard and pass my best wishes to all those participating in the scheme.”

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