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Unlocking the ‘miracle cure’ for people with long term conditions –  new resource pack to help healthcare professionals and organisations support people with conditions to be active @RichmondGroup14

  • 43% of the adult population in England live with at least one long term condition[1] including 25% of the NHS workforce[2] and an estimated 15- 30% live with more than two, according to various sources.
  • People with long term conditions account for 50% of GP appointments, 64% of outpatient appointments and 70% of all inpatient bed days.[3] The current absence rate in the NHS is 5.7% [4] largely owing to stress and mental health problems as well as musculoskeletal conditions.
  • Physical activity has been shown to benefit the mental and physical health of people living with a long term health condition, supporting self-management, increasing reconditioning, and improving quality of life and sleep.
  • People with long term health conditions are twice as likely to be inactive as people without conditions [5] and within the NHS workforce, 30% are inactive.[6]

Physical activity has been described by the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges as a ‘miracle cure’[7] and yet millions of inactive adults (those not undertaking 30 minutes of activity in a week) are missing out on the physical and mental health benefits that increasing their physical activity could bring them.  This is potentially in part because physical activity is being under-utilised as a tool to support self-management within the health and care system.

Despite the benefits of physical activity being widely acknowledged and evidenced, and medical consensus on the safety of physical activity, it is still not being routinely used as a tool for self-management by people with long term conditions or being encouraged by professionals as part of person-centred conversations with patients.

Encouraging more people with long term health conditions to be active could also have potential gains for professionals looking to reduce appointments and waiting lists for care, and would help to meet the expectations of this group as research suggests that 57% of people with long term conditions look to the NHS for advice on being active. [8]

The Richmond Group of Charities are a group of health and care charities made up of Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, Asthma + Lung UK, Breast Cancer Now, British Heart Foundation, British Red Cross, Diabetes UK, Macmillan Cancer Support, Rethink Mental Illness, Royal Voluntary Service and the Stroke Association. They are working in collaboration with Mind, MS Society, Parkinson’s UK and Sport England – the partners also behind the We Are Undefeatable physical activity campaign seen on TV for the last three years –  to address the issue of physical inactivity amongst people with long term health conditions. They have developed some resource packs aimed at the health and care workforce, and health and care organisations, to help dispel myths about physical activity, highlight the key benefits of promoting physical activity and provide some tangible examples of how to make changes in practice that support people with multiple health conditions to move more.

25% of the NHS workforce live with a long term health condition and 30% are estimated as being inactive. These resource packs have also been created to support NHS workers to feel the benefits of being active including reducing pain, fatigue and stress as well as improving mood, sleep and quality of life. This is particularly important now, as the burnout experienced by large sections of the health and care workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on their welfare, which could also lead to an impact on patients.

The Richmond Group of Charities and its partners are now calling on people in the health and care workforce, and their organisations, to consider four ways they could make a difference to people’s health and wellbeing through promoting physical activity.

  1. Prioritise physical activity: make promotion of physical activity for people living with (multiple) long term health conditions a priority, whilst committing to engage with people living with long term health conditions in the development of pathways, services and support.
  2. Talk to patients about physical activity or enable those conversations: embed physical activity conversations into routine practice to maximise all opportunities to promote physical activity and especially signpost to helpful tailored resources such as the We Are Undefeatable campaign which has lots of free tips and support.
  3. Champion physical activity: provide leadership across your organisation and within the health and care sector by advocating physical activity, encouraging colleagues to do the same and promoting ongoing learning and development.
  4. Support your workforce’s wellbeing/consider your own activity: if you and your colleagues are also living with long term health conditions, prioritise self-care and think about ways that suit you to be active as well as encouraging others. Try We Are Undefeatable for ideas and tips.

Michelle Roberts, the Physical Activity and Health Programme Manager from the Richmond Group of Charities explains:

“It’s sometimes hard to think about what tangible differences you can make to help people with long term conditions to make behaviour changes, like being more active. But there are things we can all do, many of which are completely free and don’t take a lot of time. We’d like to work with health and care organisations and professionals to support them to consider and act upon the four changes we’ve suggested.”

Sarah Worbey, National Partnership Lead for Health and Inactivity at Sport England encourages organisations to make the most of the wide range of resources already available including our new resource packs:

“Our long-running partnership with the Richmond Group of Charities is one of the key ways we are working to increase collaboration between the health and sport and physical activity sector, as both workforces play vital roles in helping support people with long-term health conditions to be active. Together we have launched the We Are Undefeatable campaign, and we encourage the health and care sector and health and care workforce to take a look at the campaign and sign up to access our free marketing materials and conversation starters on the Public Health England Campaign Resource Centre. The resource pack we’re launching today pulls together key information from the latest research into barriers, to relevant training and resources, to case studies highlighting how to make changes in practice.”

To find the resource packs visit the Richmond Group website.

[1] NHS Health Survey 2018

[2] https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/piescc/viz/



[4] NHS Digital, January 2021: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/nhs-sickness-absence-rates/january-2021

[5] Sport England Active Lives Survey

[6] Perspectives in Public Health – Health in the NHS: lifestyle behaviours of hospital employees, Blake et Al, 2012:


[7] https://www.aomrc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Exercise_the_Miracle_Cure_0215.pdf

[8] DJS Research, We Are Undefeatable, 2020: