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To feel upset and pissed off by this impossible NHS gym referral scheme?

(55 Posts)
LonesomeDove Mon 14-Apr-14 14:42:53

I have anxiety, so I am bearing in mind that I'm maybe blowing this out of proportion, so thoughts are welcome.

I got a referral letter from my GP for a local gym because of anxiety and also high cholesterol. Problem is, at the minute I wouldn't have the £6 needed to go twice to the gym (work part time atm) but with a bit of luck I should be going full time at work in about a fortnight and the gym is something I want to prioritize with my extra money.

So I called the gym today and asked for an induction. There's a cancellation today, so I was delighted and went over. They photocopied my GP letter and I started the induction, then suddenly the instructor stopped when he realised I was on the GP referral scheme and said he wasn't qualified, it had to be another instructor. Ok, I said. Then the staff member at reception handed me another form and said it needs to be filled out by the GP, my letter won't do. Once I get that back from GP I can book in with specialist instructor, and I have to do six sessions with her. But she only does sessions on Tuesday and Thursday between 8 and 4.

This means now I have the money to do the GP referral scheme I won't be able to do it. Because I'll be at work. I asked how people are meant to do it if they work full time, and the person behind the desk said 'oh take time off, if it's for your health..' and shrugged her shoulders.

I am fucking pissed off. As if I can start a new job and ask if I can start an hour late to go to the fucking gym. So frustrated. This just makes it inaccessible for people who work full time sad and I don't have the money for their extortionate regular membership. I wanted to use the gym to build confidence to run outside, I really am not at the place where I can start running outside yet.

It just seems if you are poor to begin with and have health difficulties everything is a catch 22.

juneau Mon 14-Apr-14 14:48:05

I agree - that's appalling OP. I've found that complaining to the NHS can be quite effective if you are forceful and persistent. Your GP's surgery should be able to direct you to the relevant PLS (Patient Liaison Service). Write a furious letter - at worst it will make you feel better!

DoJo Mon 14-Apr-14 15:14:36

Presumably these limitations are imposed because of that particular trainer's schedule, rather than being an inherent problem with the scheme, so would it be possible to use another gym? Maybe one near your work so that you can build it into your routine? Or one which has extended hours which would allow you to go either early or late.

Could you speak to your GP and ask for a list of participating gyms so you can find one which can accommodate you? I know it's annoying, but try not to be discouraged!

Nomama Mon 14-Apr-14 15:15:13


You are not unreasonable but are probably not doing your BP much good and that has knock on effects for anxiety!

Your GP didn't explain things well. The gym, not having all the info from you, booked you with the wrong instructor. Once you are referred you should see a specialist instructor, insurances and all that.

It is neither the GP nor the desk bods fault that the referral inductions only take place in day time, that's normal for the referral work.

Take a deep breath.... could you arrange an 8am and get to work a bit late, just once? Or leave early, just once?

Either way, don't get so angry, don't write a furious letter (send one asking if they could do an after work session once a month for those who work full time) and definitely don't give up trying to get fitter.

LonesomeDove Mon 14-Apr-14 15:32:19

Thank you all.

Nomama - they did indeed have the correct information from me, they knew I was on the GP referral scheme when I called this morning because that's what I was asking about. Guy on the desk then admitted he made a mistake - that's ok, we all do it. And it's not just once that I would have to ask to be late to work, it would be six weeks because it's mandatory to do six weeks with this special instructor. Unacceptable to ask for that starting a new job. Thank you though! I am calming down, it's just a pisser.

DoJo - thank you, but I can't go to one near work because it has to be in my borough. I will go ask my GP are there any other options.

Juneau - thank you, I'm going to write a letter to the manager, pointing out how difficult it makes it and that the way I was treated was unacceptable.

It sounds fucking stupid but I had to find my balls to go in there and get on a stupid fucking exercise bike and was doing ok and found it really humiliating to have to stop and be told my forms weren't valid blah blah blah. I fucking hate being poor and being ill and everything I try to do seems to make the situation worse.

ouryve Mon 14-Apr-14 15:36:19

8 sessions at the gym are hardly going to be life changing, anyhow.

LonesomeDove Mon 14-Apr-14 15:40:28

Ouryve - it's not about the initial 8 sessions. That's ridiculous!

The gym's policy is I must have a session a week for six weeks with a special instructor - I can go the rest of the time on my own, so I would go twice more per week. Then, once my six supervised training sessions are up, I continue on by myself. That's how it works and I have no problem with the idea it's just that if they make the only times I can have the supervised session in working hours, and then say well you can't do the scheme unless you come - then that makes it inaccessible. And so it is misleading. Not everyone can blithely skip off from work like that.

wishingchair Mon 14-Apr-14 15:55:16

Can you try another gym/leisure centre? My DH goes to the gym on referral and it is worthwhile ...

littledrummergirl Mon 14-Apr-14 16:03:36

Try a different gym. My dsis was prescribed gym and she had one induction and then left to get on with it. There is a choice of a number in our area. Find the one that fits best with you.

junetoseptember Mon 14-Apr-14 16:33:16

The gym on referral scheme was a massive help to me. I was off sick due to health problems so I could attend the off-peak times. I think most of the sessions it paid for were in off-peak/office times, that's what makes it affordable for the NHS. But I think you should be treating it as seriously as a medical appointment, which you'd take time off for, as it will probably be just as effective for your health. You can't expect your health needs to slot neatly into working hours - as someone who has had to take prolonged time off work for health reasons I know that all too well.

LonesomeDove Mon 14-Apr-14 18:02:19

Junetoseptember - I do take my health very fucking seriously and resent the implication in your tone that I do not. I manage two serious complex conditions that take time and juggling on a daily basis and leave me feeling like boiled shite frequently.

However - believe you me, my health will suffer MUCH more if I don't secure a full time job soon and have to resort to food banks and get made homeless for not paying the rent. Food + a roof over my head quite simply have to take priority over everything else, which means work has to take priority over everything else. No employer will stand for a new employee taking many days off for appointments - get real. I already have hospital appointments every two months that I will need to use leave for. I have no partner or family to help me, and there are no benefits that will save me, so I have to do the best I can for my health while yes at the same time compromising it to make sure I don't fuck myself even further ie by losing my home.

HerRoyalNotness Mon 14-Apr-14 18:06:16

Is it only once per week for 6 weeks with the special instructor? If so, can you negotiate with your work that you start later once a week, and finish later to make up the time (flexi hours).... not sure if you have childcare to consider though or a DH/DP that can help if you do.

HerRoyalNotness Mon 14-Apr-14 18:07:44

sorry, I missed your post explaining.

I would ask work for the flexi start/finish on one day per week. See what they say, they may suprise you. It's in their best interests to keep staff happy and healthy, they get more out of you.

MichaelFinnigan Mon 14-Apr-14 18:10:05

Could you go during your lunch break?

SaucyJack Mon 14-Apr-14 18:11:55

If you have to pay for it anyway couldn't you just join as a normal member?

2whippetsnobed Mon 14-Apr-14 18:18:52

I totally get what you are saying OP and I think you should complain although I am not sure who too. If it is the gym's rules or the nhs's that need altering.

There seems to be loads of people who will tell you to just take time off work like it is the easiest thing in the world. But often it's not and many employers or jobs cannot accommodate time off so easily.

MelonadeAgain Mon 14-Apr-14 18:24:54

If you are determined enough, I'm sure this isn't an insurmountable problem. Presumably they only have one instructor qualified and insured to do the GP referral scheme because it targets gym users with higher risk/specific requirements? The gym isn't specifically set up for one type of user but for all types, and therefore I don't see how its unreasonable to offer this service during those hours only. Its quite a lot of hours.

I've suffered from anxiety and managed to fit in training during my lunchbreak when working full time, so that's what I mean about it being doable if you are determined enough. You sound as though you are focussing more on being upset about it than doing something about it, and I don't think that's helpful. Generally, I think its unreasonable to expect things to be set up to your exact requirements or people to run around after you arranging things, it might be nice but it doesn't seem to happen in life, so its best to deal with the realities.

I think you were very rude to junetoseptember who was just relaying her own experiences of the scheme.

whatever5 Mon 14-Apr-14 18:27:43

I doesn't sound at all practical. I would look for a gym that will do the sessions outside of work hours e.g. on a Saturday.

If you can't find anything suitable I would just start to go to the gym twice a week as you originally intended and I wouldn't worry about the trainer sessions.

Latara Mon 14-Apr-14 19:06:26

I understand what you mean, you can't just take time off work at most jobs and it's difficult to fit gym sessions into lunch breaks - eg. I only get half an hour lunch.

Liaise with the GP and the gym (who sound a bit jobsworth imo) to try to get the training sessions out of work hours.

Of course your job is most important of all - that's how it is when you're single - there's no-one else to pay those bills and it is anxiety-inducing definitely. Lots of people don't understand what it's like.

Look into other types of exercise you can do outside work. For example: there are fitness videos on Youtube that a friend of mine does at home. Or you can go walking, running, do free weights at home, swimming when you can afford it, save up for an exercise bike / rower for example.

LonesomeDove Mon 14-Apr-14 19:30:30

Thanks for the replies - I do appreciate you taking the time to respond, even if I disagree with some of you. And thank you to those of you who understand it's not terribly easy to start a new job in a very junior position with a demand for flexitime.

MelonadeAgain - I am sorry you feel I was rude to Junetoseptember, however I was not slating her experiences but rather took offence at her careless remark that said something like "But I think you should be treating it as seriously as a medical appointment". That implies I do not take my health seriously and I do MASSIVELY resent that. Trying to manage two physical health conditions as well as anxiety, while climbing out of depression is tough and I am doing the best I can.

I also resent your assumption that I'm expecting people to run round after me arranging things confused How bloody dare you! No - I expect to be given correct information, not fucked around by the staff at the gym and not sneered at and told to take time off from my job.

I am genuinely pleased for you that you managed to fit your training into you lunch break. However I can't do that because

a) I have been referred to a gym in my borough near where I live

b) I commute one and a half hours to my place of work - therefore cannot commute back in a 45 min break to use the gym

c) I can only possibly afford the gym on medical grounds because then it costs £3 pay as you go, rather than £11. I can accommodate £6 into my budget on my new salary. I cannot accommodate over £20 a week.

2whippetsnobed, Whatever5 and Latara - thanks for the understanding and the ideas. I think I'm just going to start walking round the heath and doing yoga from youtube, and hopefully build up my confidence to go running then.

HerRoyalNotness Mon 14-Apr-14 19:36:35

Could you ask for your GP to re-refer to a gym closer to work? How about joining a beginners jogging group, would you feel more comfortable in a group rather than on your own jogging?

flipchart Mon 14-Apr-14 19:42:34

Ok, I get the problems with the gym.
I'm thinking of a different approach until the gym stuff gets sorted.

So the crux of the matter is that you need to exercise and watch your diet.
Well it's nice to have a gym for that but not essential. I get you don't want to run.

What about going on the exercise section on MN and asking for advice about exercising from home. There are loads of YouTube videos out there, 100's of DVDs on everything from yoga to cardio.

Would that be any help

BeaWheesht Mon 14-Apr-14 19:49:16

Right, you are being incredibly aggressive and getting yourself massively wound up and taking it out on people who are trying to help you.

It is a bit crap that the scheme doesn't suit you and yes, you're bound to be disappointed / frustrated. It is not worth all this stress though. At the end of the day it is a medical appointment and usually they're office hours really.

Why not just be glad you're going full time and earning money, try and focus on the positives and see how that helped your mood then maybe see if you can defer your referral for a whole until you feel more able to negotiate with your work?

SaucyJack Mon 14-Apr-14 19:57:28

I can only possibly afford the gym on medical grounds because then it costs £3 pay as you go, rather than £11. I can accommodate £6 into my budget on my new salary. I cannot accommodate over £20 a week.

I getcha. But do you need to join this specific gym and/or workout with that specific instructor due to health needs? Budget/no-frills gyms are springing up all over the place, and you could easily find one with unlimited access for around £20 a month.

BeaWheesht Mon 14-Apr-14 20:01:13

Would a gym like this be of use ?

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