Blackburn inspires London

Published Monday 9 February 2015 at 10:59

An initiative to set up lunchtime walks for staff at Royal Blackburn Hospital has been the inspiration behind a pilot scheme set to be launched at a top London hospital.

Health chiefs at St Barts Hospital, which is the oldest in Europe, are using Blackburn’s successful lunchtime walking model, which was established as part of the Council’s sustainable transport programme, Connect.

They want to help encourage staff to take advantage of work-place health initiatives and are hoping to roll it out to other hospitals in the Trust.

The pedestrian charity Living Streets is a partner with Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Connect project, which works with local businesses in the borough to encourage greener and more sustainable ways of travelling to and from work.

Simon Harrison, North West Project Coordinator for the charity, said:

“Previously staff had been reluctant to take part in the lunchtime walks because they were busy; tired from working long hours and the previous walking route was around the hospital grounds which were dull and boring and it offered no disconnection from work.

“We consulted with staff to find out the best day, the best time and find the best routes. We used that information to map out different, more inspiring walking routes.

“One of the routes goes along the Arran trail, takes in green space and pleasant views and goes past dipping pools to showcase the areas wildlife which people really like.”

Simon added:

“Another positive to come out of the walks was that staff were sending out regular communications via the post to a school they didn’t realise was so close by. Now they hand-deliver letters and packages which have helped save the hospital money on postage costs.”

Royal Blackburn Hospital’s Clerical Officer, Donna Smith, regularly takes part in the lunchtime walks with colleagues. She said:

“I really enjoy walking and often will go out walking during the evenings and weekends. Walking with colleagues during my lunchtime is a great idea as I like socialising and it promotes a healthier lifestyle.”

The Hospital lunchtime walks launched in September 2014 and have been well attended each week – with dozens of staff taking part in the weekly sessions.

Councillor Maureen Bateson, Executive Member for Regeneration, said:

“I am delighted to hear that London is going to replicate what we are doing here in our borough. It is not only helping to keep staff healthy, but it is saving the hospital money – every little helps in these difficult financial times.

“The half hour lunchtime walks are a great way to get staff out into the countryside, to forget about work and to come back feeling refreshed and revived.”

Wei Du, Living Street’s Project Co-ordinator for London, added:

“Barts Health NHS Trust, which is the biggest in the Country, is now using Blackburn as a best practice example. They want to help replicate what has been done at Royal Blackburn Hospital. We are now creating a series of 30 minute lunchtime walks that take in the historic, interesting and green spaces surrounding the hospital site. We are using Blackburn’s model to launch the sessions in May during national walking month. We really hope this initiative will be as successful as it has been in Blackburn.”

Lunch time walks also take place every Tuesday and Thursday setting off from outside Blackburn Town Hall at 12.30pm.

Walking facts

  • It is recommended that each person should do at least 2.5 hours of physical activity a week in intervals of 10 minutes or more – walking during your lunch break is a great way to achieve this.
  • During the winter months day-light hours are limited, restricting the intake of vitamin D, walking in the outdoors during lunchtimes helps increase intake and gives you a boost of energy
  • There are also mental health benefits, walking is proven to help alleviate stress
  • There are additional social benefits of getting out and talking to different people
  • National Walking Month is coming – the warm up starts now #WalkThisMay


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