"We set challenges, you set the rules."
Through Health and Hustle, Gloucestershire patients and NHS healthcare staff are joining forces to walk, talk, run, and talk some more. As well as encouraging everyone to stave off stress and health conditions with valuable physical activity, the scheme helps GP practices to meet wider healthcare goals. But, perhaps most importantly, it provides a supportive community for people of all ages and backgrounds.
Founder Kevin Gannaway-Pitts, says: “Our group is very unique. We aim to get people running non-stop for 30 minutes. Some run, others walk. We also coach people on how to breathe and make sure that one of the goals is not just to run and breathe, but to talk as well. Some of our running buddies have formed such good relationships that they’ve gone on holiday together. In other cases, I’ve provided bereavement counselling.”
In his day job, Kevin works for NHS Gloucestershire and on the Patient Participation Group (PPG) for Aspen Medical Practice in Gloucester. He launched Health and Hustle among a few colleagues who wanted to support each other’s efforts to get fit. Today, it has 700 people on the books.
Hustlers are organised in teams where member stats are recorded via Fitbit and uploaded to the Health and Hustle portal. Teams compete against each other in challenges and encourage each other to keep going. Each team enlists a changemaker to manage its own cohort. The changemaker for Aspen is GP Nicky Wilson.
Nicky says: “Managing the Hustle through a GP practice has two benefits. Firstly, it recognises that patients aren’t the only ones who need a healthy lifestyle. With the NHS under pressure, we need to support staff. People are our greatest asset, and if they are not well, they’re not happy.
“Secondly, with the greatest budget in the NHS allocated to prescribing, primary care needs to focus more on prevention. At the same time, we’re seeing worrying trends in medical conditions. Whereas Type 2 diabetes used to present in people in their 50s and 60s, for example, we’re seeing an increasing number of cases in younger people. Helping these patients, and others who arrive with prediabetes, to address their symptoms through active, more healthy living, empowers people while also helping to take the pressure off NHS services.”
The need to tackle lifestyle challenges is being recognised across healthcare provision. For Aspen, Health and Hustle forms part of its accreditation with the Royal College of GPs as an active practice. Many GP practices are also including social prescribers in their Primary Care Networks.
Those who take part in Health and Hustle record success through using a Fitbit. Working in partnership with Fitbit Health Solutions to offer reductions has eased the financial burden on those less able to pay, but the collaboration also offers opportunities to link lifestyle information with healthcare providers. Future plans include a trial to see how patient stats such as blood and oxygen readings can be fed into records.
For now, Health and Hustle is slotting in well with existing programmes like Aspen’s Eat Real Food scheme, and it’s clearly cemented itself into its members’ routines. Kevin talks about one of the members of the couch group who is a 69-years-old who set out wanting to reach 5K, and is now running 10K. He also shared a funny story where one of the members who didn’t want to miss out on her exercise parked a mile away from a date, before getting lost in the forest and turning up late and dishevelled!
Kevin says: “We are always mindful that everyone has a different goal. When we start the couch programme, I always say, look back at this moment and remember this. You’ll be amazed. One day you’ll find you’ve just run 5K, and not just run it, but talked all the way round.”