Strictly Come Dancing stars Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova used their creative talents to promote health and wellbeing in the workplace. The couple took centre stage to promote the launch of the NHS Barnsley staff support service’s ‘Live 4 Life’ campaign.

The concepts behind Live 4 Life are the brainchild of NHS Barnsley’s staff support service. The initiative is an integral part of the service’s vision for improving the health and wellbeing of the workforce and was created as a direct response to staff surveys and the challenge posed by Dame Carol Black in her report Working for a Healthier Tomorrow.

The launch was a one day promotional event to evaluate elements of the model and provide practical support to the workforce, whilst simultaneously building a profile of NHS Barnsley’s organisational health, safety and wellbeing.

In 2007, the Department of Health identified Barnsley as one of their spearhead areas: the areas in the country with the worst health and deprivation indicators.

Although life expectancy is improving and the health gap within Barnsley has narrowed, the gap between Barnsley and the rest of the country continues to widen. A recent analysis showed that coronary heart disease is the largest contributor to the gap in life expectancy between Barnsley and the rest of the country. 

Consequently, improving diet and physical activity to combat obesity levels and reducing smoking are priority areas. 

A key action of NHS Barnsley is to support the workforce to take more control over their health and wellbeing, encouraging lifestyle changes that reduce the risk of CHD by improving access to preventative health, social, psychological and occupational care.

The staff support service is well established and prides itself on being a beacon of excellence.

It has a 10 year foundation of quantitative and qualitative staff and organisational data, with service evaluation based on national benchmarking and NICE guidelines for improving access to psychological therapies. It promotes the concept that ‘good health is good business’ and acknowledges that work is an essential part of healthy and fulfilling lives.

Live 4 Life has been designed to be flexible and to meet the needs of a target range of service users and stakeholders. It extends and expands the provision of service to non-NHS customers, therefore becoming a potential service of choice for employers.

At the heart of its vision are four key aims which are to:

  • Recognise that people are in control of their own health, care and welfare
  • Enable and support independence for health, wellbeing and social care
  • Provide rapid and convenient access to a high quality, cost effective and clinically reliable service
  • Give access to a ‘menu of choice’ to meet individual and workforce needs

The service objectives are based on:

  • Preventing illness by creating a new and proactive perspective on health, wellbeing, safety and work
  • Individual and organisational health checks and screening
  • Promoting the benefits of health and wellbeing from a psychosocial and educational perspective
  • Improving work and the workplace
  • Supporting staff with health conditions and disabilities
  • Early intervention strategies and management support for those on sick leave or long term ill health
  • Supporting employers to make adaptations, e.g. physical, operational and procedural
  • Service efficiency and effectiveness, linked to NICE guidelines and national benchmarking to ensure clinical systems are robust, fit for purpose and clinically reliable

The concept underpinning this model is a proactive advance towards early intervention, based upon a holistic and integrated approach within a biological, physiological, behavioural, psychological and social welfare context. 

Live 4 Life is contributing to national government targets and local drivers, in particular for cardiovascular disease (CVD), by creating new innovations to ‘build a brighter and healthier future for the workforce’, while simultaneously reducing inequality and extending life expectancy for the population of Barnsley.

As service data suggests, it is our belief that achieving small changes in the average level of health and wellbeing across the Barnsley population would produce a significant decrease in the percentage of those who suffer from illness and emotional distress.

Live 4 Life is an innovative and creative model of clinical practice, which encourages adults to get and stay healthy by using an individual proactive, self-help, psycho-educational approach. 

In order to address local and government targets, the staff support service took the key parameters from clinical evidence and randomised control trials which highlighted that environmental factors such as what we eat and how we feel, affect our health. The public health promotional message is heard and seen by many people. However, research suggests it can be poorly understood and applied. 

There is a growing research database that suggests:

  • Overweight people want to lose weight
  • Smokers wish to quit
  • Inactive people want to start exercising

However, clinical evidence reveals that two of the fundamental issues which prevent this from happening are the lack of individual motivation and sustainability and simple targeting that encourages individuals to ‘kick start’ the process, thus maintaining momentum until their personal goals have been fulfilled. 

By aiming to support the workforce, and individuals in particular, in achieving small measurable achievements, Live 4 Life introduced the following activities:

  • Healthy lunches and snacking: eating for good mental and physical energy, balancing blood sugars
  • Health screening: one to one confidential sessions, know your numbers and how to interpret them
  • Tailored healthcare package: practical health, wellbeing, nutritional and healthcare information on a confidential basis

Health screenings consisted of:

  • Blood glucose – diabetic test
  • Total cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol – measure of good fat as a percentage of total cholesterol
  • Blood pressure – where necessary to substantiate other results

For individuals, the event offered interactive physical activity and fitness sessions, together with health checks. There was a comprehensive range of complementary therapy taster sessions, which included smoking cessation, medical herbalist sessions, physical, occupational, nutritional and lifestyle advice, together with image consultancy and colour therapy, in order to boost confidence and self esteem. 

There were various representatives from the public, private and voluntary sectors, offering support and assistance on finance, social drinking, legal matters, employment rights and flexible working. 

Appointments for sessions were pre-bookable and other ‘drop in’ sessions were available on the day. Working in partnership with the public, private and voluntary sectors is a recipe for success.

For the organisation, the health assessments and evaluations, together with the data collected, both written and verbal, contributed to the health profile for NHS Barnsley. There was a particular emphasis on improving nutrition, diet and physical activity to combat obesity levels and reduce smoking (which have been highlighted previously), as these are the priority areas for Barnsley in the Department of Health’s spearhead initiative.

The graphs below represent employees’ health screening by: gender, blood, cholesterol and blood glucose, together with professional observations and discussions which focused on diet and individual nutritional support. 

This information has been converted to maintain anonymity and confidentiality, whilst simultaneously giving a snapshot of the health, safety and wellbeing of NHS Barnsley.

The percentages outlined in the graphs (attached) are self explanatory. However, it is relevant to highlight some of the salient points.  From those employees who attended for health checks, 36 per cent were advised to visit their GP within the next week, based on the screening results.

In some cases where the results were higher than normal range, although not high enough to warrant a GP referral, individuals were advised to visit their practice nurse for a repeat test to be undertaken within the next month.

With reference to blood pressure, 18 per cent were given advice regarding lowering blood pressure. A GP referral was initiated for 8 per cent of those who were screened, having a reading of higher than 160. Additional lifestyle health factors and further complications were also identified within this group.

Cholesterol results were given in relation to total cholesterol in blood at a given time and high density lipoprotein (HDL), the so called ‘good cholesterol’, as it helps to clear excess lipids from the arteries, the higher the better. HDL should be measured whenever cardiac risk is being assessed.

Advice about lowering cholesterol was given to 58 per cent of the sample group, with a TC of 5.0 or over or, for those with an HDL under 1.3, support and information was given about increasing the HDL level. A GP referral was given to 26 per cent with a TC of 6.0 or over.  These individuals were identified as being at the greatest of heart disease.

Advice regarding blood glucose levels was given to 26 per cent, if below 4.5 or above 8, after eating. A GP referral was given to 4 per cent with a reading above 8.


Organisational Health Screened Workforce Profile

                                 NHS Barnsley   National Figures       

Average blood pressure    136/92    140/90 mmhg 

Average total cholesterol     5.17     5.0mmol/L                  

Average HDL                     1.5     1.3mmol/L                  

Average blood glucose       5.7      4 and 6mM    


Evaluation forms completed by those attending the event revealed the following results:

  • 97 per cent of attendees rated the event ‘great’ or ‘good’, while the other 3 per cent thought it was ’OK’.
  • 100 per cent said they would be interested in future similar events.
  • 92 per cent were aware of the staff support service and 99.10 per cent said they would use the service in the future if the need arose.

The event was a huge success, with approximately 400 staff attending and a total of 361 taster sessions being enjoyed by staff. 

Everyone who completed the evaluation form (379) received a free goody bag, the content of which focused, from a creative, humorous, health and safety perspective, on managing individual distress within the workplace. The Little Book of Calm was also included to focus on a person centred approach to wellbeing and relaxation.

The finale to the day’s events was a workshop on creative dance, presented by Darren Bennett and Lilia Kopylova, the stars of Strictly Come Dancing.  The interactive session was designed to promote adult fitness, tackle obesity and boost interaction through engagement in dance routines. 

In terms of whether this model works, the staff support service offers comparative data, which is provided by CORE (Clinical Outcomes in Routine Evaluation) for consideration (see attached table).

The service conforms to NICE guidelines and recommendations for improving accessing to psychological therapies and is benchmarked at national level via the CORE national database system.

The success of implementing the Live 4 Life concept is dependent on the emergence of an organisational culture which manages change effectively, responds positively to government legislation, local policy and creates a climate where staff feel valued and an ideology of health, wellbeing and safety are realised.

The NHS is entering an era of change, the old ways of working are diminishing and there is an emphasis on corporate enterprise with an evolving culture of diversity and change.

For some staff change can be viewed as a threatening experience. However, when taken from a positive perspective, change can be perceived as a synonym for learning, a voyage of discovery and exploration.

There can never be an agreed formula for success in any organisation dealing with the unpredictability of human nature and, to this end, models, plans and forecasts only act as a guide.  It is the day to day interaction with employees in a variety of contexts which determine whether or not the organisation meets its objectives and fulfils government targets successfully.