Walking for Health programme in UK improves peoples' lives

10 August 2016 Consultancy.uk

The Walking for Health programme aims to get people on their feet, as increasing sedentary lifestyles place a heavy toll on human and societal wellbeing. A recent evaluation of the programme by Ecorys finds that it is generally effective in keeping people active as well as improving mental wellbeing by dint of increased social interactions.

A recent study published in Lancet found that up to an hour of exercise, per day, is required to offset the effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting for long periods of time is, in a certain sense, unnatural – and is implicated in a range of disorders. Add to this a continuing health crisis in the UK around weight, with almost a quarter of the population categorised as obese. As a result, the risk of serious disease (diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc), a reduction of quality of life and long term costs for the healthcare system are on the rise.

In a bid to support activity among adults in England, the Ramblers, the UK’s largest walking charity, and Macmillan Cancer Support, a charity focused on improving and aiding cancer care, launched the Walking for Health programme.

The programme provides for 1,800 walks per week across England, across 400 active schemes. The walks are designed for relative ease, covering easy terrain and short distances. Around 8,300 volunteers have been trained to support the different walks, with in total around 20,000 walkers taking part in the programme per week.

Walking for Health programme in UK improves peoples lives

The programme has been running for more than 14 years. In a bid to better understand the effectiveness of the programme, Ramblers and Macmillan Cancer Support hired Ecorys and the University of East Anglia (UEA) to evaluate the programme. The study involved a longitudinal telephone survey of new walkers, as well as a follow up four and eight months later; a range of case studies of local programmes; in-depth interviews with key stakeholders; and a ‘cost-benefit’ analysis to quantify the overall returns of the programme.

The results found that overall the programme is relatively effective in encouraging people to sustain their physical activity, particularly as they age – even if, in general, no substantial long term increase in physical activity was observed among participants. Participants themselves tended to be older, female, inactive and with underlying health issues. The programme was not strong at attracting minority ethnic groups and those from areas of deprivation. The programme had a number of additional benefits including improvements to wellbeing, improvements to general mental health, a reduction in loneliness, and increases in social interaction. The programme was found to be cost effective according to the MOVE model developed by the UEA.

According to a spoke’s person for Ecorys, “Findings on the delivery of local schemes also provided the national programme team with useful learning on what they can do to increase the programme’s reach to particular target groups, to provide more effective support to local schemes and volunteers, and to develop awareness of the programme among key national stakeholders.”

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How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

11 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

Amey Consulting has leveraged data insights to assist Network Rail with the improvement of its South-Eastern route. Using the Quartz tool, which monitors train movement, Network Rail will now be able to commit to data-enabled interventions to quickly improve underperforming train stations.

With rail services in the UK coming under strain from the demands of modern commuter life, while the infrastructure and service delivery of the nation’s railways has come in for sustained criticism in recent years, a period of regeneration is on the cards at last. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain, and has subsequently tapped the consulting industry on a regular basis to help find areas of improvement.

The group recently drafted in consultancy BearingPoint to conduct a thorough organisational evaluation and advise Network Rail (High Speed) on attaining a ‘fit for purpose’ organisational standard – for which the consultancy was nominated at the 2019 MCA Awards. Meanwhile, ArupArcadis and Aecom have been contracted to help Colas Rail and Babcock Rail implement a decade-long framework for Network Rail, aimed at supporting the delivery of the next generation of rail systems, with the contracts said to be worth as much as £5 billion

How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

As Network Rail further aims to improve its performance and customer service offering, another area it has sought help from the consulting sector for is its South-East route. The network of railways connects London with the southern parts of the country, as well as with Europe, making it the busiest in the country, with more than 500 million passenger journeys per year. This crucial expanse of rail was plagued with small minute delays, which were impacting millions of passengers every day, while reducing the efficiency and capacity of the overall network – something Amey Consulting was selected to help solve.

Amey Consulting soon determined that with the sub-threshold delays to services only lasting for 1 or 2 minutes, most were not the subject of detailed root cause analysis, and this made their corrections almost impossible – with dire consequences. Without addressing these delays, passenger satisfaction would fall, while the capacity and efficiency of the network would be reduced, stinging the income of Network Rail even before a host of delay-related fines would hit the company.

In order to help the client gain a better understanding of where, how, when and what these small delays occur, Amey Consulting looked to demonstrate the value of data-led consulting, with a significant reduction in delays within the first month of rolling out changes to key stations. The consultants embedded themselves in Network Rail’s team, helping them learn the key skills needed to support and apply data-driven solutions.

Agile transport

This involved the deployment of the Quartz tool. The system utilises to-the-second train movement data to present the performance of individual stations across the South-East route. It allows users to effortlessly understand station performance with a high level of detail, and use this information to identify losses caused by small-minute delays. The granular data allows for targeted actions to drive efficiency savings and performance improvements. More importantly, it allows users to understand the impact of small process changes on performance. 

Steve Dyke, an Executive Partner at Amey Consulting, said of the project, “We looked to identify the physical root cause on the infrastructure, building a case for change then managing that project implementation and tracking the benefit/value.  In doing so we are working to define a data performance improvement service to the operational and infrastructure owners.”

Just as important for the project as the technology, however, was teaching the Network Rail team how to leverage it after the consultants were gone. The Amey Consulting team worked to develop an agile working culture within Network Rail’s South-East division, helping staff to be confident in using data to improve the journeys of millions of people per year by attacking the problem from the ground up.

Dyke concluded, “This is less about the tools and about the approach to managing performance.  It meant using by-the-second analysis, data science, and then agile development to visualise and identify areas where improvements can be made.  We then worked with NR to change the way they approached the management of the infrastructure changes.  So rather than pass the information down the value chain, any of which could have been missed, we managed the change end-to-end.”

The project was so successful that Amey Consulting was also among those honoured at the recent MCA Awards. The firm scooped the Performance Improvement in the Public Sector prize for its work with Network Rail, at the 2019 ceremony in London.