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Evaluation of ‘Healthwise’ Exercise Referral Scheme in Greenwich

Healthwise Evaluation

Evaluation of ‘Healthwise’ Exercise Referral Scheme in Greenwich

Start Date:  Feb 2008   End Date:  Sep 2008   Status: Completed


Since the early 1990 there has been a huge increase in the number of exercise referral schemes in the UK making them one of the most popular forms of physical activity intervention in primary care settings. Exercise referral is the practice of referring patients from primary care to a programme of physical activity supervised by qualified exercise professionals and usually lasting from 10–12 weeks. The objective is to increase opportunities for physical activity by providing access to exercise facilities or activities in the notion that this will encourage long-term change in exercise behaviour. Schemes typically operate as a partnership between the local authority, Primary Care Trust (PCT) and private leisure service providers.

Healthwise is the result of a partnership between Greenwich Leisure Limited (GLL), NHS Greenwich, Woolwich Development Agency (WDA) and the Healthy Greenwich Network (HGN) aimed at raising levels of physical activity in the borough by linking the services of health professionals and leisure providers. Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups, in whom levels of physical activity are lower than in the general population, are particularly targeted. The scheme has been operating since 2005 as a subsidised programme aimed at adult residents with existing health conditions as well as those at risk of developing health conditions where physical activity can improve their well being. Over 20 - 26 weeks, participants receive an individually tailored programme and access to a number of classes and courses designed to help them manage and improve their condition. A range of classes are available including group exercise, healthy walks, gym-based sessions, water workouts, and swimming. By January 2008, 3,500 participants had been enrolled unto the scheme. The evaluation was commissioned to generate evidence about the effectiveness of the scheme in sustaining exercise behaviour and shifting patterns of demand on NHS resources in Greenwich over the long term.


  • To analyse changes in body mass index (BMI) of participants
  • To determine whether BME clients recruited to the scheme maintained attendance
  • To profile the people enrolling in Healthwise who are likely to need long term care
  • To investigate the potential scope for Healthwise to deliver some of the key priorities associated with patient care in long term conditions and older populations
  • To identify elements of the scheme that might deliver these priorities.


A mixed methods design was used to implement the evaluation consisting of descriptive and correlational analysis of monitoring data and qualitative interviews with service providers and users. These were complemented with a rapid review of the literature on exercise referral schemes, documentary analysis including review of the results and recommendations of a prior evaluation, and non-participant observation.

Main Findings:


Learning from the evaluation has supported NHS Greenwich to make an informed decision on continued commissioning of exercise referral in the borough.

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Project Lead:

Dr Patrick Tobi

Project Team: Patrick Tobi (Principal Investigator), Justine Cawley (Co-ordinator), Emee Vida Estacio, Anouchka Seesaghur, Susan Nabingi

Funder: NHS Greenwich and Greenwich Leisure Limited

Report: Download (PDF)

For more information, contact: Patrick Tobi

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