January 2, 2024

Supporting Physical Activity at Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust | Marcus Axelson & Robyn Gennari

Robyn Gennari, Staff Wellbeing Lead at Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust and Marcus Axelson, Head of Partnerships at Myles Wellbeing joined us at the NHS Staff Wellbeing Collective 2023 to talk about how Royal Surrey are supporting staff with physical wellbeing.

Toby Cannon
18 minutes


  1. Trust Focus: Royal Surrey prioritises staff wellbeing across financial, psychological, physical, and social areas.
  2. Myles Wellbeing Discovery: Discovered Myles Wellbeing at a conference, attracted by its social and competitive elements that align with their goals.
  3. Successful Pilot: Despite limited funding, a three-month pilot with Myles Wellbeing surpassed engagement targets, with high participation and active involvement.
  4. Impactful Results: Over 680 users, millions of steps logged, and a notable 2.6x increase in physical activity post-engagement. Positive qualitative feedback showed improved motivation and camaraderie.
  5. Future Plans: Compelling data will support a business case for sustained collaboration with Myles Wellbeing, aiming to leverage charitable support for continued success.


So I will start. I'm Robyn Gennari, I'm the staff health and wellbeing lead at Royal Surrey. I've been working there since March 2022. So just to give you a bit of backstory, Royal Surrey is an acute trust. Our main site is at Guilford, and then we've got some Community Hospitals as well and lots of additional services that we run across the Guilford and Waverley area. So, for some of you who don't know, it's a very leafy, very affluent area, which I'll come back to later on.

One of the things that we do, Holly and I, run the health and wellbeing service for all our staff. And one of the things that we had spent quite a lot of time focusing on was mental health, financial wellbeing, with the cost of living crisis. And then what we realised we needed to do is start looking at physical wellbeing and looking at social wellbeing because our service is categorised by those four key areas: Financial wellbeing, psychological wellbeing, physical wellbeing, and social wellbeing. So, they're the kind of the four key areas that we focus on. And we focused so much for probably over a year on the first two because they were really key during that time.

So, I had a chat with our director of HR, and he said, "Robyn, we really need to focus on some kind of event, something to do with physical wellbeing." So, we went along to the wellbeing conference in London. And you know what it's like when you go to one of these wellbeing conferences. There's lots of halls, lots of events, and there's so many stalls, you're walking through, you're looking at lots, and you're kind of bombarded by all of this information. And I was kind of looking around, not looking at anything in particular, and we came across the Myles Wellbeing stand.

It's quite funny because I think we were actually nearly leaving at that point. So, Marcus, we had a chat, and I was explaining, "Oh, actually, that's really interesting. We're looking at doing something about physical wellbeing." And it was just something that Marcus was talking about with regard to Myles Wellbeing that just really clicked with what actually we were looking to do. Because one of the things that attracted to us was the kind of social commaraderie, you know, one of the competitive that you could factor into different teams. So, that was something that I thought, "Oh, that's a bit different, with a bit of competition to kind of promote the social wellbeing side, along with encouraging people to focus on their physical wellbeing."

We've done quite a lot of work on stress and burnout, and I thought this was a way of us focusing on self-care, what do you do? We've got a lot of nurses, HCSs, you know, porters that are doing so many thousands of steps each day. But actually, how are we kind of focusing it on wellbeing, on their physical wellbeing? So, this was something that kind of really just was the... we were in the right place at the right time. It was something I was starting to look at but probably wasn't quite clear on what I was going to be focusing on. So, we kind of had a chat.

But one of the things that I said quite honestly, and as you will all know, is that NHS wellbeing isn't particularly well funded, the staff wellbeing. Lots of nods, yeah. So, it is historically not something that the NHS focuses on, sadly, especially considering we spend so much time and money trying to do the best for patients. But we're not actually looking at the staff looking after the patients. So, that's kind of one of the things that we want to gauge, really. I really wanted to commit to Myles Wellbeing, but I had to be realistic about whether or not this was going to be something that the board were interested in, and also I didn't have a budget to cover it. So, that was one of the things we first looked at.

So, I kind of spoke. I was honest with Marcus about that from the start, wasn't I, at the stand? So, he said, "Okay, well, let's have a chat. Let's, you know, let's see where this goes and we can see what we can do." And we came to an agreement that we would do a three-month pilot because what that would do was give us the opportunity to gauge the engagement, see whether staff were actually signing up to something that we could look at.

Now, one of the other things that I knew was going to be really popular with the board and with the senior leadership, because we've done quite a lot of work on like the cost of living crisis and financial wellbeing, was the vouchers that you could have, the Smyles that you can accrue. So, I knew that that was going to be a really good buying as well for me to be able to feed that back to people at the trust.

So, we started the pilot. We were quite sensible and, you know, what it also like whenever you do these wellbeing initiatives for staff, you're kind of like really, you know, we were thinking maybe like what, 200? We were like, 200 people sign up, that's quite good. Absolutely smashed it. It was like we were meeting regularly, weren't we, just kind of chatting? And I'm like, "Wow, actually, we've got really good engagement with this." And then we kind of, "Let's double that, let's go with 400." Absolutely smashed it.

And then I was like, because we reached past our like 5% target and what really surprised me was actually how many people were engaging with the app, how many people were logging their activity either by their watches. And then the other side that kicked in was the camaraderie, they're like, "Oh, look, this person has done how many look how many Smyles that they've accrued." And I was having people come into the cabin and saying, "Oh, Robyn, I'm really sorry, I did mean to give you a high five, but I actually promised a high five to someone else. But I am going to give you a high five tomorrow." And which is, I'm sure you'll go into detail about, might not make sense now, but um, and it became really competitive and people were actually coming up to me and actually saying, "Robyn, I will give it to you tomorrow, but you know, I just, I've got to give it to someone else and someone else has given me one and I owe them." And it started conversations. You had people in teams going, "How did you get that many points over the weekend? What were you doing at the weekend? How did you accrue that many points?" And the improvement factor, you're like, "Well, I didn't get, I don't have that as many points as that person, but look at my Improvement percentage." And it started kind of all those conversations.

So, I think that was something that really surprised Holly and I that actually how many people were getting involved, how many people were interested and how the conversations were starting. People were getting quite competitive, definitely. I had someone coming up to me constantly saying, "Oh, I haven't logged this, because, they didn't have a watch or a tracker. So, they were, they were, you had the opportunity to individually put it in and they were like, 'Oh, I haven't done it. I've got to make sure I do. Remind me. I need to log my so I can get my Smyles.'" So, yeah, so really, that was kind of the, what that's managed to do with conversations with Marcus is for us to be able to gauge, we can gauge the engagement, we can gauge the interest. It then, we're able to look at the impact analysis. So, with all the data that Myles Wellbeing have as well as matching with our data, so our kind of like staff sickness levels and how we can do it. So, we are at the case now where we've done, we've done the pilot and we're now ready to put all of that information together for a business case because again, as you know, we don't have a lot of money, but we are really lucky, and that's why we said earlier, we're very fortunate we live in an, we work in an affluent area and we're really lucky with our charity and our charitable donations to the trust. So, what we will be doing is putting a business case together for our charity to be able to support them so that we can continue the good work that we've had with Myles Wellbeing there.

Thank you, yeah, brilliant. Right, so, um, yeah, as Holly was saying, in this sort of three-month period, so a really short time, we've managed to have a really big impact and the first thing I want to share with you is our our impact report. So, these impact reports are things that we share on a monthly basis with our clients just to give a s of high level view on what the impact is in terms of things like activity levels or engagement  or interactions between between users. So, I just go on to the next slide, you can see as Robyn said, we have absolutely smashed it in terms of the numbers of users so we've got over 680 users on the app and that is constantly growing day by day in terms of the engagement and  how often people are accessing the app we can see that people are accessing it 18.7 times um on average in the last 30 days which is pretty much exactly where we would want that number to be because what we don't want is people on their phones doom scrolling all day not getting anything done like you would do on Tik Tok or Instagram or something like that, what we do want is people to be engaged and be checking seeing how the colleagues the colleagues are getting on or seeing how  how many Smyles they've got in the last day the last week or whatever it is so the fact that people are checking it that many times it's brilliant for us we then start to see some some massive numbers so in terms of the steps over this three month period uh there 680 plus people have done 211 million steps  in terms of the number of activities reported 441,239  we then look at the distance travel so I so 163,9241km travelled.

To put that into perspective, that's 4 times round the equator, or 43% of the way to the moon, so hats off to you guys all story we doing that it's an incredible achievement we then look at the hours of activity so it's not just people are doing the activities they're also doing it for a decent length of time as well so 13,256 hours of activity and again a bit of perspective behind that that is one and a half years or for any of your movie buffs out there 4,418 times watching the Titanic. Now I know it's a good movie but I'm not sure I can sit through it that many times.

On to the point around the high five so the high 5 is a little social element within the app so essentially it's a way of giving people kudos and saying well done for the app that you're doing so you can click on somebody on the leaderboard give them a high five they will get an extra hundred Smyles in their wallet and they also get confetti on their screen in the app just to show that you're encouraging people to to do that little bit extra and recognising for the the effort that they can do and then all of this combined all this stuff that we've got leads us to one of the most important factors for us which is the 2.6 times more physically active so that is 2.6 times more physically active in November than prior to using the app and this is a trend that we see across a lot of clients as well so it's it is it our mission is to get people moving more you can see there that's exactly what we're doing um now it's great to get sort of figures like this and stats like this but what's also really valuable to us is the qualitative feedback from users of the app.

So just got a few quotes here so first one made me motivated to work out and exercise more for a better healthy me, great motivation of hard time the Robyn and I were talking this was during the doctor's strikes the industrial action so obviously that was hard time for a lot of people very glad that we were able to help keep people moving during that time it's a very good app I mean very to the point we usually like a bit more meat on the bone with this feedback but good to know nonetheless, enjoy the motivation to hit targets and competition between teams good at getting you motivated and improve fitness really easy to clock up the Smyles and get get vouchers from stores that you actually go to, brilliant, I mean as you can see as I mentioned getting people moving more as our mission as you can see that people are motivated to do more out there do more activity which is exactly to see. Robyn I think you've got few little bits as well.

Yeah I mean I think definitely one of the things for us is that people come and tell us how they're, what they think of it. It might be when we're queing in the canteen or it might be when they come to one of our drop ins and we kind of plug it. We've got a really active community hospital and they're quite active, especially a few key ones of them. So I was straight on it, I was like you need to get onto the Myles Wellbeing app and start spreading the word. I think because some people, the feedback that they would give is that it just kind of gave them something else to focus on. Quite often, you can imagine when you're in industrial action or something, you don't really have anything else to talk about other than how busy and stressed the work is, and actually this was a really nice way of, giving someone a high five for their improvement rate being so high, it started that conversation of "thank you so much" people would email and talk about high fives, so I knew that was the feedback they were giving each other. I was able to find out conversations people were having with each other about it, about how hopefully, how they hadn't maybe spoken to that person for a a while and they noticed that they were higher on the leaderboard so it started that conversation, so it's kind of ticked both boxes for us, you've got people talking more, talking about something other than how stressed they are at work, and even having that competitive side, and they quite liked that. I'm really proud of us for getting those stats.

Also, one of the biggest things was the vouchers that you can accrue from it. That was something that was absolutely huge to quite a few of the staff, particularly people that are gathering steps just from doing their day-to-day work. They were almost being awarded for the fact that they were doing those steps in their 12-hour shift or something. So that was something that people did thank us a lot for as well.

Now with all of the sort of the background figures and the positive data we've gathered here, it is all really valuable. But again, I'm speaking with Robyn and speaking to other trusts that are working with. If you're then going to go to a CFO or an exec and say, "Hey, I want to use Myles Wellbeing because of all these stats", these great, but that's not going to be enough. So what we did is we went away and we said, "Right, how can we prove the value of the app?" So we went away, we looked at a bunch of really reputable sources like the British NHS Digital, Public Health England, a big Professional Services Company, and from that data, from all these sources along with the data we collect within Myles Wellbeing, we were able to come up with cost-saving estimations across two areas.

The first one: Physically Active workers take 27% fewer sick days and through the data we took from these sources, we could reduce spend by up to £5,200 upon sickness and absence. We also now retention turnover is a massive thing in the NHS long-term Workforce plan, so we thought we need to look into that in more detail as well. From those data points of what we have to add into that, we would estimate that we could reduce some from anywhere from £2,100 to £4,700 per month.

Now you're probably all looking at the again where the hell have you got these figures from. Do rest assured, I've taken Robyn and Holly through these impact calculators where we follow very logical sort of steps just to how we got ears logical isn't it? I'm glad you said that. So we do have impact calculators which I'd be very happy to take any of you through as well just to show you the type of impact we can have. But yeah, I think the fact that we've been able to sort of get to these figures which are going to be put in of the exec board and the charity is very exciting.

And I just wanted to kind of add to that one of the things for our trust, I'm sure probably is the same for other trusts as well. Our two highest rates of reasons for sickness or going to occupational health is MSK and mental health. So that's also going to be fuelling part of it is that actually significantly higher than other areas here is something that can actually help. Here is something that can target, you know, both of them going out, you know, quite a bit. People started going for a walk at lunchtime just because they want to get their steps in or they wanted to put it down on their tracker. That type of thing is going to improve their mental health as well as their, you know, anything to do with, you know, MSK, whatever. It's quite broad but, you know, there are two key areas. So that's definitely something that we're going to be feeding in. Right, well, I think that's something I was going to take through. So, it's short pretty short and sweet I think.


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