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RCGP backs new NICE quality standard on physical activity

NICE’s new quality standard on physical activity has gained the support of the RCGP.

The quality standard, announced today, has a focus on encouraging activity in the community, in an effort towards tackling obesity. 

It also recommended that local commissioning groups have senior level ‘physical activity champions’ to implement policies across the community. 

Chair of the RCGP Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard said they hoped employers would ‘swiftly’ implement the recommendations. 

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Exercise can have a hugely positive impact on our physical and mental health, so making it easier for people to be more active as part of their daily routine – both at work and in their leisure time – is key to helping patients live a long and healthy life.

‘This new quality standard from NICE offers useful advice for professionals and commissioners across society – and for employers, it includes pragmatic suggestions that can be tailored to workplaces of different sizes and with varying resources available.

‘We will soon launch our own scheme to tackle sedentary behaviour in the workplace, which should complement NICE’s new quality standard.’

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The standard is aimed at GPs and other medical practitioners, as well as healthcare commissioners, employers, schools and the public. It follows figures from the Office for National Statistics showing that more than 131 million working days were lost to sickness in 2017, with 13 million attributed to stress, anxiety or depression. An uptake in physical activity is hoped to contribute towards reducing staff absenteeism, instead improving their workplace satisfaction.

Points raised in the quality standard include that: 

It added that other quality standards should be considered when commissioning or providing physical activity within the general population. These include physical activity for NHS staff, patients and carers; air pollution; community engagement; employees’ mental and physical health and wellbeing in the workplace; and schools-based interventions.

Deputy chief executive and director of health and social care at NICE Professor Gillian Leng said: ‘As a society we are facing an obesity crisis caused in part by people not exercising enough. We need people to change their lifestyle and to take more exercise. If they can do this during the working day, not only will they benefit, but so too will their employers and the NHS. It’s a win, win for everyone.

Public health minister Seema Kennedy said: ‘We have a world leading plan to tackle obesity with prevention at its core, and later this summer we will be setting out further action on obesity and physical activity through a prevention green paper.

‘It is vital that employers embrace prevention to ensure their staff stay fit and healthy. Having seen first-hand in my department the positive impact running clubs can have, I welcome the launch of the Quality Standard as another way to encourage communities to stay active.’

NHS Digital data reveals that one-in-four people were classed as obese in 2016, a stark increase from 1993’s figure of one-in-six.

Similarly, Public Health England recently warned that physical inactivity is as deadly as smoking, with one in six deaths caused by a sedentary lifestyle, and an estimated annual cost of £7.4 billion.