Researchers at Plymouth University will launch a randomised control trial on an e-coaching exercise referral scheme for patients with long-term conditions.

The team, which consists of researches from the university’s Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and colleagues from Exeter, Birmingham, Southampton, Brunel, Edinburgh, Marjon and the NHS in Cornwall, has received a £1.3m grant by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme.

The researchers will look at the potential of adding web-based coaching, called e-coachER, to the GP exercise referral scheme, where doctors prescribe exercise to patients with chronic conditions such as depression, obesity and type two diabetes.

The goal of the trial is to get patients to achieve 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise every week.

Adrian Taylor, professor of health services research at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, who is leading the project, said he hopes to see a minimum of 10% increase in people achieving 150 minutes a week for those receiving e-coaching over a 12 month period.

“This would provide an option for local services to support their patients to increase physical activity with a significant health gain,” he said.

“We will also be interested in identifying what participants feel about e-coachER, if it increases physical activity after 12 months, and what they thought were the main ways in which this support was useful to them.” 

The pilot phase will begin from now until July 2015 and patients will be recruited from the South West of England, the West Midlands and Glasgow. The trial will start with 180 patients who will either receive the GP exercise referral scheme on its own, or with access to e-coachER, using the Lifeguide platform, which performs web-based behavioural interventions.

After the initial trial, the recruitment will begin for the 37-month long project, where a further 1220 patients will be included.

The trial will look at whether the e-coaching helps patients improve and sticking with it. It will also analyse cost-effectiveness.