Friday, 15 December 2006

The One Minute Mile

The One Minute Mile – Sustainable Transport

A Scheme for the NHS

December 2006 - Target for the NHS as an Employer

Nice Clinical Guideline on Obesity

The recently published NICE guideline on obesity includes targets for the NHS as an employer. Under the section policies and working practices is included the following recommended action:

"Ensure policies encourage activity and healthy eating; for example, travel expenses should encourage walking and cycling to work and between work sites."

Below is the outline of a scheme I devised in 2004 which at the time gained no support. If adopted this scheme would allow NHS organisations to meet this particular target without major investment in facilities or manpower.

This is the outline of a scheme which I devised to provide an incentive to get people out of their cars and to take more exercise. Fundamentally the scheme rewards people on a minute of extra leave per mile basis for using a bicycle to travel to and from work by bicycle, instead of driving.

Outline details of the scheme:

Based on someone who lives 5 miles away cycling to and from work 4 days out of five per week. Total cycling 10 miles per day.

At a conservative estimate, once used to it, someone will easily cycle at an average of 10 miles per hour, the travel each way time would therefore be 30 minutes or less.

Calculations based on 6 weeks leave per year (generous) which leaves 46 possible weeks to accrue mileage.

I have added in a can’t be bothered/bad weather factor which allows people to not bother for 25% of the time so I have based my calculations on actually riding to work 3 days per week, 10 miles per day, for 46 weeks per year. This is a very reasonable target.

Total mileage for year is therefore: 3x10x46 = 1380 miles per year.

To make the scheme attractive the incentive must be realistic and it is suggested that 3 days of additional leave might be a reasonable incentive for someone who stuck to the programme. Based on a seven hour day one day equates to 420 minutes, three days therefore equates to 1260 minutes.

Therefore someone cycling 1380 miles per year (at a one minute per mile rate of accrual of extra leave) would “earn” 1380 minutes of extra leave, or an additional 3.2 days. Hence the scheme is named The One Minute Mile.

The miles accrued would be “claimed” in the same way as travelling expenses are presently claimed and the service manager would authorize the claim forms. The paperwork and administration involved would be very small indeed and additional resources would not be required to manage the scheme. Setup costs are therefore effectively zero.

It is suggested that the total mileage which can be accrued be capped at 5 days. To reach this level someone would have to cycle 2100 miles per year (Land’s End to John O’Groats and back to Land’s End again!). I think it likely that if the time incentive to “get on yer bike” is sufficient (3-5 days leave is very well worth having) that this might also have a positive effect on sickness absence.

Such a scheme would clearly demonstrate that NHS Trusts and the Government as an employer was prepared to make a real investment to support and encourage people to make greater use of bicycles to travel to work instead of using their cars for short journeys. The health gains would be considerable and not difficult to quantify, it is likely that many participants would lose weight as a major benefit of the scheme. Such a scheme would make an ideal public health research project if those signing up were monitored in a structured way by the local occupational health department, as a means of measuring the impact and benefits of the scheme.

Quentin Field-Boden

July 2004

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