Dr Hannah Henderson, lecturer in the School of Sport and Exercise Science was awarded her PhD at this week’s graduation ceremony at Lincoln Cathedral attended by students, parents and friends, staff, and senior staff from the University of Lincoln. Hannah’s doctoral thesis entitled, “Intended actions, unintended outcomes: towards a processual understanding of exercise referral schemes” investigated referrals for supervised physical activity by GPs and other primary care professionals. The these was supervised by Professor Siriwardena of CaHRU, Professor Jaqui Allen-Collinson (Sport and Exercise Science) and Dr Adam Evans (University of Copenhagen).
Exercise referral schemes (ERSs) have developed since the 1990s. Although the evidence for their effectiveness is still equivocal, the complexity of how schemes operate and individuals working with them interact, has been largely overlooked. Hannah was interested in how individual interpretations of ERSs might be co-produced by interactions between those central to the service, and how this might influence both service delivery and impact. The study therefore aimed to address this by exploring participants’ understanding of ERSs, and how these perceptions affected ERS service provision.
The research focused on one case-study ERS in the East of England, using semi-structured group and one-to-one interviews. A process sociological lens was adopted to provide novel insights into participants’ perceptions of ERSs, their role and their ability to influence ERS service provision. Data were also supported by self-elicited reflections from the researcher’s ‘insider’ position to the county’s ERS. The analysis revealed conflicting interpretations of ERS service provision, and perceptions of the scheme’s receipt and impact. The networks of relationships affected participants’ experiences and shaped the delivery of exercise referral. The findings suggested how the actions and interpretations of those central to a service fundamentally altered delivery which influenced the very existence of the scheme.