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By Ben Jackson, Qualification Development Manager at Active IQ

In the UK an estimated 15 million people are living with at least one long-term health condition. This number is rising year on year, placing a huge burden on the NHS, social care providers and the economy.

The NHS Long-Term Plan, which was published in January 2019, has placed a significant focus on prevention rather than cure. Social prescribing and other initiatives look to take some of the pressure off front-line healthcare staff by asking health and physical activity professionals to support the agenda, get the nation moving and encourage people to make healthier lifestyle choices.

This is all laudable – but is the industry ready? Are you ready?

CIMSPA has developed a new professional standard – Working with People with Long-term Conditionswhich identifies the knowledge and skills needed to work with this client group in a range of settings. At Active IQ we are busy behind the scenes to ensure our new and refreshed Exercise Referral qualifications align to this professional standard.

The new qualifications, which launch in March 2020, will ensure that physical activity professionals working with people with long-term conditions are fully equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to be able to safely and effectively support this client group.

So, what are the changes we’re making and why are they important?

The new qualifications are being brought up-to-date with current best practice and will also highlight a number of long-term conditions that will widen the scope of the role, including:

  • Hypo/hyperthyroidism
  • Cancer
  • Neurological conditions, e.g. Stroke, Parkinson’s
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Dementia
  • Connective tissue disease

The qualifications will also have an increased focus on behaviour change techniques that can be deployed, for example, ‘Motivational Interviewing’.

Operators can make their organisations ready for these changes by upskilling existing staff or recruiting individuals who are qualified to help people with such conditions. Staff holding the refreshed qualifications will have covered content in greater depth and demonstrated a deeper understanding and higher skill set to support this client group.

The depth of content that is covered also means that one or two staff qualified to this level can cover the majority of conditions likely to be presented by referred clients.

For personal trainers, this qualification provides the opportunity to upskill and offer their services to a large and growing client group. Quite apart from making their work more diverse and rewarding, it ensures they won’t be faced by members and clients whose conditions may be ‘out of scope’.

Developed with the support of allied health professionals with a clinical background, the new Active IQ qualifications in this area will align the health and fitness sector and medical profession more closely. This is vital if we are serious about changing the health of our nation.

The NHS Long-Term Plan and social prescribing provide great opportunities for physical activity professionals. Not only could it open doors to new and rewarding work, broadening skillsets will widen reach to attract new business or higher-paid employment for professionals

By engaging in the refreshed training, individuals will certainly be ready for the demands and opportunities presented by social prescribing.