Active travel

The figures for this intervention are based on research into using motivational interviews as tool for promoting active travel. The benefits identified included reduced carbon emissions from reduced car use; additional QALYs and cost savings from the health benefits of increased personal levels activity. It was based on a research study to develop and apply a method for prioritising investments in preventative interventions for England by Matrix Insight, in collaboration with Imperial College London, Kings College London and Bazian Ltd.

Case study source

Brief interventions delivered in GP surgeries to improve uptake of physical activity

Healthy Returns – Production Report

Financial Calculations


The findings of the above case study indicate that savings per person for this measure were £4,000. This financial saving is based on cost saved through health treatment avoided and does not include costs associated with increased life expectancy resulting from the intervention – such as pensions and health care costs. Extrapolating this across the 1,200,000 staff of the NHS at the time of publishing indicates a £5,000,000,000 saving would be possible, a figure that has been scaled for healthy returns to reflect a 25% applicability proportion and a 25% uptake rate to give a saving of £312,000,000.

For the purpose of the MACC calculations, it has been assumed that no savings would be achieved by the target year of 2020 because the savings described above would not immediately be realised. Rather they would occur after a number years, assuming that behaviours continued.

The impacts on health care costs were estimated based on the costs of treating type II diabetes, stroke and CHD. The costs of colon cancer were not included in the estimates given that no reliable annual cost for the treatment colon cancer could be identified


Brief interventions delivered in GP surgeries consisting of brief advice and one motivational interview with a health visitor cost on average £40 per person more than brief advice. Multiplying by the number of staff and adding in costs to include staff to coordinate, estimated as £525,000 leading to a total estimated cost of approximately £47,400,000. With an uptake rate of 25% costs for the calculation were estimated as £11,900,000.

Carbon Calculations

The carbon saving per year has been quantified in the case study as 4,000 tCO2,a figure based on forecast benefits of reduced use of fossil fuel based transport and taking into account the 25% uptake rate.

Additional Benefits

In addition to the healthcare savings linked to increased exercise in individuals, increased active travel will improve air quality due to a reduction in the total number of car miles on UK roads. For the assumed uptake rates, increased active travel within the NHS staff population could lead to a reduction of 1,796,599.5 road miles every working day (based on daily 6 mile reduction per individual taking up active travel)


Assumes take up by 25% of staff, resulting in 3.22% of staff active travel to work; the rest do other active exercise. Assumes national average levels of activity in NHS, as well as commuting times etc. Ignores carbon savings from reduced healthcare service use due to lack of detail on healthcare service use reduced.

To scale to the individual organisation level, the figures above have been divided by the total number of NHS staff so that a given organisation can find the approximate value based on their total number of staff.


Supporting active travel for staff should include a communications campaign where the benefits for the individual, the organisation and society are made clear. In addition, practical steps can include implementation of the government backed tax relief “cycle to work” scheme, installation of secure bicycle parking on site and facilities for staff to shower and change.