The Scalpel's Blog

17.10.18

On your bike!

Source: NHE Sept/Oct 2018

Sathish Sethuraman, travel and transport plan co-ordinator at Northumbria Healthcare NHS FT, explains how efforts to promote cycling to work at the trust are resulting in more staff travelling on two wheels.

At Northumbria Healthcare, we are committed to becoming a greener organisation and reducing the environmental impact of delivering patient care in hospitals and in the community across Northumberland and North Tyneside.

From introducing electric vans and energy-efficient lighting to renewing ageing thermal insulation, we’re doing all we can to lower our carbon footprint.

Part of this work is supporting our staff to use more sustainable methods of transport to get to and from work. With over 10,000 employees, the number of journeys this represents really adds up!

Our efforts include the greater use of electric/hybrid cars and a big push on encouraging our staff to cycle to work – spearheaded by our chief executive Jim Mackey – both of which are paying dividends.

For many years, we have provided facilities to support staff to cycle to work – secure shelters for bikes and lockers to store clothes and belongings – and we’ve had a hardcore group who cycle come rain or shine.

While this is great, it’s only a start. The next step is to encourage recreational and/or occasional cyclists to use it as a means to get to work.

To this end, we have launched a Cycling Support Initiative at our administrative headquarters, working with Bike4Health to provide some supported cycling for staff as a pilot project. The aim was to encourage people to cycle into work, build confidence in cycling, and to give staff information about safe cycling routes. Six people took part in the scheme; the feedback was 100% positive about the arrangements, support, routes and advice. As a result of the pilot, two people have purchased a bike of their own. Five people have become regular cyclists, cycling to work between one to four times per week.

As part of our staff benefits package, we offer our staff the opportunity to purchase a bike through our cycle to work scheme via salary sacrifice, opening a door to employees who wouldn’t normally be able to afford a bike of their own.

In the last year, we have had a 32% increase in ‘cycle to work’ vouchers from 2016-17. In addition to this well-established scheme, this year we’ve also teamed up with Green Commute Initiative to offer bikes and e-bikes over the value of £1,000, which has proved hugely popular.

Our staff cycling to work not only helps the environment and reduces pressure on our busy car parks, it also enables our staff to incorporate exercise into their everyday lives – helping to boost their levels of physical activity and mental wellbeing.

It’s a key part of our work to improve the health and wellbeing of our workforce as, after all, our staff are our greatest asset and we want them to stay well.

As geographically one of England’s largest trusts, with 11 hospitals and multiple community sites, we fully appreciate that our staff will need to travel between sites for work and it’s not feasible for them to come to work on two wheels all the time. On top of that, we all lead busy lives and have responsibilities, and our staff will need their car to collect children or run errands at times.

But for those who don’t live too far away from work and don’t need their car for their role, cycling is a cost-effective, sustainable and, above all, enjoyable way of getting to and from work which we’re keen to support.

We aren’t suggesting our staff need to do it every day; however, a couple of times a week, or even just the odd time, makes a difference and helps our staff to be healthier, and happier.

 

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