CPD Highlight - Nuffield Health

CIMSPA partner Nuffield Health is one of the leading not-for-profit UK healthcare organisations, looking after people for more than 60 years. With over 350 facilities around the country, including fitness and wellbeing gyms, corporate fitness and wellbeing centres and hospitals, CIMSPA were pleased to welcome the organisation as an employer partner and skills development partner in 2016.

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Having recently been visited by our External Quality Assurance team, we felt it was a perfect time to catch up with Nuffield Health and Learning and Education Lead, Chris Foster to discuss the process, how they found it and how working with CIMSPA has been for them over the last two years. 

Nuffield Health were the first of our employer partners to require their Fitness and Wellbeing staff to be CIMSPA Members, why did you decide to do this?

“We took this strategic decision as we felt that CIMSPA, backed by DCMS and Sport England, offered the best way forward for the sector in terms of professional standards and registration. Previous registers have offered much, and under delivered on their promises and with quality being extremely high on our agenda throughout the organisation we believe that our Fitness & Wellbeing employees are best served by being members of their Chartered Institute. We feel that the CIMSPA membership status of our frontline fitness employees provides a stamp of quality, which offers our consumer members and corporate clients an assurance that they are being supported by the most appropriately qualified people.”

We recently visited one of your facilities to carry out external quality assurance on your Fitness As It Should Be course. How did you find the process and were there many changes made as a result of our report?

"Our EQA was a really good experience, and it’s safe to say that through thorough preparation and great delivery we were given a very positive report. The take home actions were therefore quite limited, however what we continue to do is review our content regularly to ensure that it is up to date and look to gain CIMSPA accreditation for any new educational products that we develop so that we can continue to support our employees.

The most significant change that we have implemented since the EQA visit is to redevelop our Fitness As It Should Be and Building Relationships: PT Sales courses, which are now delivered in a blended format. Our new employees can access the online aspects of the new Fitness Induction: Setting Up for Success programme as soon as they join the organisation prior to attending a face to face workshop where the theory is brought to life in a practical environment. This new programme has been recognised by CIMPSA and offers our PTs 10 Endorsed CPD points.

One aspect that I think works really well is that CIMSPA went out and asked a number of our employees for their feedback on the Nuffield Health Academy courses that they’d attended. For me, this allows our people to feel confident that our training is being externally reviewed, which offers an extra level of quality to their learning experience.”

Speaking of your in-house academy, you now have 13 training courses endorsed by CIMSPA, how does the academy work for your employees and how important is it to your organisation?

“The Nuffield Health Academy has successfully operated for a number of years, delivering learning and development opportunities to every single employee within the organisation. We view professional development as a crucial part of any employees’ career with us, and as such we are proud to be able to support our fitness employees as a CIMSPA skills development partner.

We currently have a blend of face to face and online educational workshops and modules recognised by CIMSPA and are constantly looking to grow our internal offering. This ranges from our Fitness Induction: Setting Up for Success and Health MOT programmes, through to training in areas such as Recovery+ (our post-surgical exercise recovery programme) and Exercise Programming for People with Cystic Fibrosis (where our Personal Trainers work to support children and young people with cystic fibrosis to be more physically active).

As well as our internal offering, we have also partnered with 13 third party training providers to enable access to their CIMSPA endorsed training, which may be funded by the Nuffield Health Academy or via discounted employee self-pay rates which we see as a way of rewarding our people.”

I’m glad you mentioned your cystic fibrosis course. It seems very relevant with CIMSPA’s publication of our Working with People with Long Term Conditions professional standard. I understand that you may be sharing the course with all of our members in the future.

“As a charitable organisation, we are always looking at how to engage with those who would ordinarily have fewer opportunities to be active or look after their wellbeing. One of our most successful programmes is our Cystic Fibrosis Exercise Programme, which through a working partnership with Great Ormond Street Hospital, has enabled our Personal Trainers to work with in excess of 250 children and young people. We are now discussing with CIMSPA how we can expand access to this programme by sharing the educational package with non-Nuffield Health sport and physical activity professionals, which in turn would mean a greater number of cystic fibrosis patients could benefit from this life-changing programme.”

We are into our third year of working together now. Are there any changes you would like to see CIMSPA make? Any ways you feel we can better represent the sector?

“The key developments or advancements I’d like to see from CIMSPA include increasing the awareness of what CIMSPA membership means for their existing members (e.g. our Personal Trainers), prospective members (e.g. self-employed fitness professionals) and the general public. The continued discussions between CIMSPA and the medical profession are also an area I’d like to see progress because, as outlined above, the sector has such a huge opportunity to positively impact the health of the nation. We need clearly defined pathways that make it easy for those working in medicine and primary care to know who they can refer their patients to, safe in the knowledge that they can be trusted to offer them the best care possible.”

Thank you for your feedback Chris. CIMSPA are constantly trying to improve awareness of our organisation and it is something we will really be concentrating on over the next year with our new branding launched at conference and our strategic marketing plan for 2019. 

Our theme for our conference last week was “Five years forward” – how do you see the sector progressing?


“Looking to the future, I think it’s essential that the sector looks at how it can be viewed in a more professional light. It’s an exciting time for everybody involved, and we need to be able to harness the enthusiasm for fitness and wellbeing that is building amongst the younger generation on social media. At the same time though, this brings with it challenges in terms of the visibility of who and who isn’t appropriately qualified to deliver fitness services. The sector has such a huge role to play in the fight against diseases such as obesity and diabetes, but we still have a major barrier between us and the medical profession. Building trust between these two areas is absolutely essential, and my hope is that CIMSPA will play a key role in enabling this to happen.

At Nuffield Health we are constantly looking to develop how our clinical and fitness employees work together in an integrated, multidisciplinary way and the vision would be to see this replicated throughout the nation in line with the NHS’ focus on prevention as well as treatment and cure. Something that we do need to tackle is making CIMSPA membership appeal to and seem valuable to sport and physical activity professionals. We are left with a legacy of broken promises, and as such Personal Trainers struggle to see the value of a professional register. The larger operators such as Nuffield Health are working on this with our fitness employees, but there is a huge untapped market of self-employed trainers across the UK who require education on the purpose and benefits of CIMSPA membership.”

CIMSPA would like to take this opportunity to thank Nuffield Health for their continued support and work to develop our library of professional standards and a special thanks to Chris Foster BSc MCIMSPA - Learning and Education Lead – Fitness and Physiology Academy, for taking the time to talk to us.