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Steven Ward, CEO of ukactive, said: “We welcome the focus on prevention, mental health and technology in the NHS Long Term Plan and its recognition that a lack of exercise is a leading cause of premature death.

“The NHS Comprehensive Model of Personalised Care reflects ukactive’s lobbying call to use social prescribing to improve prevention and rehabilitation, with 2.5 million more people set to benefit within five years. With the commitment to supporting more than one million people to access support via social prescribing programmes, the physical activity sector stands ready and armed with the capacity and motivation to assure success.

“While smarter spending on frontline services and investment in technology may sustain the NHS for another 10 years, the ultimate way to relieve pressure on the system is to take a truly preventative approach by fixing the way we live.

“The plan promises to save 500,000 lives over 10 years, but we know physical inactivity alone will cause up to 370,000 premature deaths and costs us £200bn over the same period. The plan’s omission of ‘physical activity’ is disappointing but ukactive is ready to work with the Government to elevate the importance of a holistic approach and achieve radical change.

“We remain concerned that £1bn has been taken out of public health spending since 2015, and that there are projected cuts of more than 4% next year in real terms. Leisure facilities represent the main allies of the frontline NHS and we must ensure they are recognised and supported as the physical inactivity crisis grows among our most vulnerable populations: disadvantaged communities, children and elderly people (see ukactive’s priorities for the year ahead, here).

“Matt Hancock’s promise to target messages at people to make sure they maintain healthier lifestyles is also welcome, however, marketing campaigns alone will not reduce the health inequalities in our communities – we need action. Nobody is better at action than the physical activity sector, which strives daily to make physical activity accessible to everyone.

“As this plan only applies to the NHS in England, other UK nations will be drawing up their own plans and we look forward to seeing these soon. Scotland and Wales have often taken the lead on physical activity as part of public health, and Northern Ireland has huge potential to transform lives in this way.

“We also await the Government’s upcoming green paper on social care, which must recognise the value of physical activity in care settings, as this is intrinsically linked to our healthcare system.

“As we enter 2019, the Secretary of State and his Cabinet colleagues remain in possession of three significant proposals from ukactive which would have a transformative impact on the health of the nation and do not depend exclusively on public finance:

Wellness Hubs – a capital investment of £1bn, using private finance to transform the UK’s ageing leisure centres into modern Wellness Hubs which bring leisure, health and community services under one roof. Sport England’s funding model shows Wellness Hubs can achieve a 30% reduction in capital build cost and 40% improvement in efficiency.

Workout from Work scheme – extend the Cycle to Work scheme to include other fitness equipment and gym memberships which would see 209,000 inactive Britons take up physical activity. Independent analysis shows a cost-to-benefit ratio of 2.6 to 1, bringing significant cost savings to the NHS, improved workplace productivity and reduced premature mortality which would access the vast ability of the private sector to influence behaviour.

Reimagine schools as community hubs – 40% of community sports facilities are locked behind school gates. ukactive’s Generation Inactive 2 report recommends that Government develops outward-facing and sustainable schools-as-community hub models with integrated health, education and social care provision for children and family engagement.

“ukactive remains committed to working with the Secretary of State, our members and partners to ensure the sport and physical activity sector is empowered to support our NHS and deliver a healthier, happier population.”