Exercise referral scheme participant characteristics, referral mode and completion status

Robert Portman, Andy Levy, Sarah Allen, Stuart Fairclough

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Objective: There is recent evidence that exercise referral schemes (ERSs) are beginning to permit self-referral access. Notwithstanding this, to date it is unknown whether key referral characteristics, such as age, gender and socioeconomic status are associated with a greater likelihood of self-referring to an ERS, and whether self-referral participants are more or less likely to complete schemes, than traditional healthcare referrals.
Design/Setting: This study presents an evaluation and cross-sectional exploration of key participant referral characteristics of those (n = 647) who signed up to ‘Active West Lancs’; a 12-week ERS in the northwest of England.
Methods: Chi-square analysis, tests of difference and binary logistic regression were conducted to explore associations between key referral characteristics and (1) the likelihood of accessing Active West Lancs via a self- or healthcare-referral and (2) the likelihood of completion.
Results: Fifty-six percent of participants accessed the scheme via self-referral. These participants were more likely to be women, to report a musculoskeletal primary health condition, to access a specific site and to do so during spring. The scheme had an overall completion rate of 42.2%. Participants who were older, resided in less socioeconomically deprived neighbourhoods, and accessed a specific site were more likely to complete. Self-referral participants were not more or less likely to complete than those who enrolled via healthcare-referral.
Conclusions: These data do not directly identify a clear benefit or detriment to Active West Lancs’ incorporation of self-referral participants. Notwithstanding this, enabling self-referral ERS access may widen scheme participation opportunities among those reluctant to seek referral from a healthcare provider and reduce the administrative burden for healthcare providers themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1
Number of pages13
JournalHealth Education Journal
Early online date17 Feb 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Feb 2023


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