Nuffield Client Care

Nuffield Health holds a unique place among operators of swimming pools, as Judith Wojtowicz discovers…

THE REFURBISHED 25M POOL at the Barbican Fitness and Wellbeing Centre, transformed into a Nuffield Health campus after being acquired from a previous operator.

Client care understandably comes first at Nuffield Health, the UK’s largest healthcare charity. At the same time, commercial demands can’t be ignored, not least when it comes to running the swimming pools within its 114 fitness and wellbeing centres across the country.

As a registered trading charity, Nuffield Health puts its clients and members at the heart of every decision through an integrated approach to all its services. At the same time, staff and management have adopted a pragmatic and robust approach to the challenges facing all pool operators in these cost-conscious times.

Optimising pool time and increasing accessibility, in part through a community outreach programme, enables Nuffield Health to better-manage overheads while maintaining high levels of service.

Programmes for All is designed to address unmet health and wellbeing needs in the wider community, an opportunity for those living on lower resources who might otherwise not be able to access Nuffield Health’s services. Everyone who joins the programme benefits from a 30-day free trial at one of its centres, most of which include a pool or wet site/relax area.

CLASSES INCLUDE 1-2-1 training for competent swimmers wishing to improve their technique.

“For every £1 of profitability, we aim to deliver an equal amount on our social return investment, in part through our unique Programmes for All,” explained Adam Hanover, general manager of Nuffield Health’s flagship City Fitness and Wellbeing Centre. “It is another way in which we can help people with limited means to improve their health.”

Located within the stunning setting of Cannon Street railway arches, the centre boasts a luxurious wet site/ relax facility comprising two swimming pools, spa, sauna and steam room. The complex, which overlooks the River Thames, is serviced by three plant rooms designed and built with the expertise of specialist architects within the confines of this handsome Grade II listed property.

With almost 30 years’ experience in the swim and fitness industry, Adam understands only too well that customer satisfaction leads to good financial results. User numbers are almost back to pre-Covid levels, here and across most of their other centres. With 114 swimming pools, the move to ‘working from home’ has seen demand rise dramatically in many locations, making up for a slower recovery elsewhere.

Swimming is considered a core service, an integral part of Nuffield Health’s mission to ‘advance, promote and maintain’ good health and healthcare for the public benefit. It was perhaps no surprise, therefore, that Nuffield Health’s reputation led to the charity (and Adam) being invited to join a working group in the early days of the pandemic to persuade the government gyms, leisure centres and pools could be re-opened safely to help with physical and mental wellbeing during lockdown.

Nuffield Health was also a member of the task force subsequently set up, along with Sport England, Public Health England and the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, together with other partners, to establish the necessary protocols around infection prevention and hygiene that allowed pools eventually to re-open, albeit with restrictions.

In today’s ‘new normal’ qualified instructors are back to offering a wide range of lessons and pool-based activities including family-splash and lane swimming, depending on location and available pool time. Tailored ‘swim packs’, instructional videos and training plans for people to follow in their own time are available to all, incorporated where necessary into an individual healthcare assessment.

SWIMMING IS CONSIDERED a core service, an integral part of Nuffield Health’s mission to ‘advance, promote and 114 fitness and wellbeing centres.

Teaching children to swim remains a priority, while one of the fastest growth areas is adults wanting to learn to swim for the first time. Success stories include 86-year-old Joyce, who took to the pool for the first time after a debilitating stroke. “Swimming is low impact and offers one of the best full-body workouts,” said Rob Panting, multi-site general manager (medical centres).

“Our experts can provide the support and advice needed to help people make the most of their time in the water through our swim schools or 1-2-1 lessons tailored to specific needs, be it rehabilitation, training for triathlon swimming or simply wishing to improve their technique.”

In common with pools everywhere, powering heating and filtration systems mean spiralling energy costs are the biggest challenge, monitored monthly to assess consumption and usage across all sites.

Cost of essential chemicals is another challenge, while ageing facilities are less energy efficient due to out-dated technology; those nearing end-of-life produce higher carbon emissions, not acceptable in today’s environment where sustainability is a priority. This means difficult decisions sometimes have to be made if the cost of replacement or refurbishment is considered financially unviable.

Where services have been impacted or opening hours reduced, communication has proven key to retaining customer loyalty, offering a transfer of membership elsewhere or even the option of cancelling membership… rarely accepted but very much appreciated.

ONE OF TWO POOLS in this Grade II Nuffield Health Fitness and Wellbeing Centre in the heart of the City of London

Staff are keenly aware of the importance of saving energy and adopting ‘good housekeeping’ practice to meet the organisation’s Green Plan targets, encouraging users to follow their example where practical. Behaviour changes from switching off lights to introducing more energy-efficient devices is making a noticeable difference.

Positive reinforcement in the shape of Nuffield Health’s ‘We Care’ recognition and reward scheme, invites staff to nominate a colleague based on pre-set criteria which now also includes environmental sustainability. “We have to ensure the business is commercially sustainable while protecting our core services,” said Adam.

“The pandemic was a catalyst, encouraging us to bring forward some of our plans which are bringing noticeable benefits. With energy costs starting to come down pressure is easing and we are on track to meet our targets.”

Nuffield Health