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Case Studies

Recognising Excellence - Accreditation for Exercise Referral

Published by Paul Jarvis
Physical Activity Development Manager
Department of Health South East
Telephone 07889 046106

Recognising Excellence is a system developed in the South East that enables providers and commissioners of exercise referral to achieve and recognise the highest standards in designing, implementing and evaluating their services

Recognising Excellence - Accreditation for Exercise Referral

Our delivery partners are....

Our delivery partners are...

Primary Care Trusts, County Sports Partnerships, Leisure Trusts, Strategic Health Authorities

We have funding and support from...

Department of Health South East

The project is located in...

The South East of England

The start and finish dates of the project are...

It starts in January 2011.  It is not time-limited.

The people helped are...

Providers of exercise referral services (local authorities, leisure trusts and others) will use the system to benchmark their services against a set of recognised standards, to decide where they want to make changes and, if they wish, to submit details of their service for formal accreditation.

Commissioners of exercise referral will use the system to identify and work with providers of high quality services in their locality.

Clients of exercise referral providers will benefit from excellent standards of service and the knowledge that the provider they are using has been accredited.

What they have said is...

"I found that the process helped to highlight gaps in the service which I hadn't previously identified, I could then take steps to address this, for example I've now formalised the application of a Motivational Interviewing approach in assessments."


"Although at first the number of criteria seemed quite overweIming I was really pleased that there was in fact quite a lot of criteria that I felt could be evidenced and it was great to get external recognition for the good practice we're implementing"

We set up the project because...

No single set of standards existed, against which exercise referral providers can benchmark themselves and be accredited for the standard of their service.

The difference this project makes is...

Commissioners and providers of exercise referral will use the system to:

  • continually improve and develop their services
  • understand and implement best practice
  • recognise and reward high quality services

What we did or are doing

In 2009, the Department of Health South East convened a representative Working Group of commissioners, coordinators and providers.  The Group's purpose was to create 'Recognising Excellence', filling a gap in the sector for an exercise referral accreditation system.  Having completed a review of accreditation systems in the wider physical activity and leisure sectors, the Group agreed the initial content, in the form of a set of standards, and process for Recognising Excellence.  This was tested wiht four providers during 2010, revised and then formally launched in January 2011.

We chose this method because...

The National Quality Assurance Framework (DH,2003) for Exercise Referral provides guidelines.  The toolkit published by the British Heart Foundation National Centre for Physical Activity & Health in 2009 presents a set of recommendations based on a comprehensive audit and consultation exercise.  We developed Recognising Excellence in order to put the guidelines and recommendations into practice

What's happened is...

We piloted the scheme in 2010.  We launched it formally in January 2011.  We are about to make the first awards.

What we'd do differently...

The pilot phasegave us the opportunity to apply the learning before we made the system widely available in the South East. As a result of the pilot, we:

  • reduced the number of criteria
  • established a team of champions and ambassadors around hte region to support uptake of the system
  • allowed schemes to resubmit portfolios for free if they do not achieve accreditation at the first attempt


We will evaluate Year One of the scheme in operation and publish this on the Wellbeing South East website

This project helped to deliver...

National Quality Assurance Framework for Exercise Referral

Get Active South East Strategy 2008-11

Local Physical Activity Strategies

London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Games Physical Activity & Health Legacy

The project is now...


Additional information or comments?

For further details, and an Experession of Interest form, go to:

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Lead Organisation Department of Health South East
Geographical Area Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, East Sussex, Hampshire/IOW, Kent, Oxfordshire, Regional, Surrey, West Sussex
Outcomes Improving health, Increasing participation
Beneficiary Age Adults, Older People (Over 60)
Beneficiary Groups People suffering from chronic disease or condition e.g. CHD, diabetes, osteoporosis
Type of activity Exercise referral
Primary Theme Physical Activity
Secondary Themes  



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