RL at the heart of the NHS

posted on 19 July 2010

A trial scheme that transformed the lives of health workers who participated in a Touch Rugby League competition is being rolled out across the country following critical acclaim.

The scheme, which saw 400 employees of the Heart of England NHS Trust in Birmingham play Touch Rugby, was so successful that health service managers have included the model in their national plans for all 152 primary care trusts.

As part of a drive for every NHS Trust in Britain to have 2,012 members of staff actively involved in sport by 2012, the year London hosts the next Summer Olympic Games, up to 300,000 health workers will have the opportunity to try their hand at Touch Rugby League.

Details of the successful Heart of England Trust scheme, which was set up following the direct intervention of RFL Chairman Richard Lewis, were outlined at The NHS Challenge launch at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium earlier this week when the presentation achieved ‘Gold Medal’ status.

The Touch Rugby tournament was initiated by Mike Jepson (then Managing Director of private contractor Healthcare Initial), and Ian Cunliffe, the Director of Medical Services at Heart of England NHS Trust, and implemented with the support and guidance of the RFL.

A survey of the 400 people who experienced Rugby League for the first time as part of the Heart of England tournament found that:

  • 50 per cent of players increased their motivation at work;
  • 83 per cent improved their working relationship with team members;
  • 60 per cent of participants reported increased motivation in their personal lives;
  • 75 per cent of participants felt they were more motivated to get fit;
  • 95 per cent enjoyed being a part of the NHS Touch Rugby League.

RFL Chairman Richard Lewis welcomed the decision to take the scheme nationwide and said he was not surprised that so many NHS staff had enjoyed their first taste of Rugby League.

“The Heart of England Rugby League Touch Rugby League tournament was an overwhelming success and demonstrated the sport’s appeal to a wide range of people,” said Lewis.

“Because of that success, thousands of NHS staff across the country will now have the opportunity to play Touch Rugby League as part of the NHS’s drive to improve health and wellbeing.

“We look forward to working with the NHS to give as many healthworkers as possible the chance to gain all the benefits from playing Rugby League that their colleagues at the Heart of England Trust enjoyed.”

NHS Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson said he was confident the benefits to staff of playing Touch Rugby and being involved in sport would have far-reaching consequences for the organisation.

“I really want to encourage NHS staff to get behind the NHS Challenge — it’s a great opportunity to meet other people and organisations in our local patches and come together to improve health and wellbeing,” he said.

“The Olympics in 2012 are not far away and we want 300,000 NHS staff involved in physical activity by the time the Games start.

“As the Boorman Review showed us, getting involved in physical activity is a great way to improve health and wellbeing, reduce sickness rates and motivate staff.”

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