Derbyshire County Council

Image of two people exercising

Envoy conducted a Social Return on Investment evaluation of the Exercise by Referral (Live Life Better) programme across eight district and borough councils across Derbyshire. The evaluation focused on the social and economic impact created for patients with vulnerabilities and complex health needs. Patients were given exercise course referrals to local authority-funded leisure centres.

The evaluation produced evidence of the efficacy of the collaborative model in Derbyshire, towards improving health and well-being for residents and workers with a range of complex needs and vulnerabilities.

The evaluation showed that:

  • Patients referred to the programme had a completion rate of 70%
  • Patients improved from an average of less than 20 minutes of exercise per week before the programme, to over 130 minutes per week after 12 weeks, and over 150 minutes per week after 52 weeks.
  • Almost 60% of patients reported reduced visits to GPs and hospitals.
  • Health professionals reported at least 50% have reduced their likelihood of an early death.
  • 1 in 4 patients had stopped or reduced the need for medication.
  • £6.60 of social and economic value is created per £1 invested, inclusive of £1.50 return on investment to the public purse.
  • One-third of patients reported they improved their health sufficiently to be able to continue or gain paid employment.
  • Over 45% of patients reported they were at risk of not being able to continue looking after their dependent children or person they were caring for if they had not received a referral.

The evaluation also showed the strengths of using local leisure centre professionals to tailor the exercise programme to the needs and abilities of each referred patient. Furthermore, it changed the perception of gyms and leisure centres, from being intimidating and over-technical spaces, to being social community spaces where diverse participants and different age groups could connect with each other.

“[Envoy were] extremely professional, had a good understanding of the required project remit, have met with partners and conducted the research in a way that has required little input or guidance from us. Final report that has been produced is clear, concise and will be used to steer our future work.”

Angela Kirkham, project lead at Derbyshire County Council Public Health