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NHS could save £100m by taking to the stairs, new research finds

NHS hospitals in England could save over £100 million a year if nurses swapped the lift for the stairs, new analysis by Department of Health seed-funded company, StepJockey, suggests.

The savings - based on a conservative estimate of efficiency savings, reduced sickness absence and lower energy costs - could make significant inroads into the £2 billion deficit NHS trusts are expected to have by March 2016.

Last September, NHS England's Chief Executive Simon Stevens repeated calls for hospital CEOs to invest in staff wellness, pointing out that NHS absence costs a massive £2.4bn a year.

Mr Stevens urged all CEOs to act, saying, "NHS staff have some of the most critical but demanding jobs in the country,” and "when it comes to supporting the health of our own workforce, frankly the NHS needs to put its own house in order."

A recent report carried out by The Health Foundation showcased the potential to improve efficiency in the NHS by nudging individuals to make healthier and more efficient choices while maintaining their freedom of choice.

How StepJockey can make a difference in NHS hospitals

StepJockey, uses evidence-based smart signs and digital gamification to encourage stair use and build greater physical activity into people's working lives. StepJockey typically sees a 500% increase in stair use when implementing its stair prompts alongside their challenge platform. As a result of such an increase in stair use, lifts are left free for patients, carbon output is reduced and energy is saved.

Several hospitals around the world have already launched successful stair climbing initiatives to boost staff fitness, productivity and wellbeing. The initiatives have proved popular with patients and staff alike, not only because they are fun and inclusive but also as they use an existing paid-for asset (the stairs) which means there is no need for extra fitness equipment.

New wellness initiatives are always under pressure to show they are supported by a well thought-out case for making real change and must be able to demonstrate a great return on investment (ROI). StepJockey recently set out to investigate the total savings a successful stair climbing initiative, if launched across all hospitals in England, could provide for the NHS.

The StepJockey hospital savings analysis

StepJockey's evidence-based analysis uses available research to calculate that England's NHS hospitals could save nearly £103 million if just 15% of the 347,944 hospital nurses used the stairs and avoided the lifts.

Savings generated per year for all NHS hospitals in England

Efficiency (time) savings


Sickness savings


Energy savings


Total gross savings

£ 102,564,249

Five-year carbon savings

24,938 kg CO2

Click here to download the full infographic.

How StepJockey calculated the savings

StepJockey's analysis assumes that on average all 1,500 hospitals in England have seven floors and of the 347,944 nurses working in them (a conservative) 15% would make a change and start using the stairs instead of the lift.

Research in the Canadian Medical Association Journal shows that nurses using the stairs and ditching the lift will benefit from a 3% time saving per day. This demonstrates that an incredible 5.7 million hours could be saved over the course of a year in the NHS resulting in an efficiency saving of £95 million per year based on an average annual salary of £30,761 per nurse.  

PWC research shows sick days cost UK business nearly £23 billion a year and, on average, sickness absence costs employers 8 working days per employee per year. Physical activity programmes at work have been found to reduce absenteeism, with active workers taking 27% fewer sick days according to a recent report by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. The StepJockey analysis assumes just 25% of this benefit and as such forecasts that over £7.1 million could be saved per year from reduced sickness absence among nurses.

For every 10 nurses substituting the lift for the stairs, StepJockey has found that a hospital could expect to save £7 per year on its energy bills, according to the The Carbon Trust calculator. The analysis shows that if 15% of nurses in hospitals make a change in their daily habits, more than £77,000 could be saved in energy costs each year.

With a new financial year looming it's time for NHS hospitals to take seriously its efficiency and the health of its workforce - the world's fifth largest. Read how the third largest hospital group in the US, Huntsville Hospital Health System got it's staff motivated and more active using StepJockey Smart Signs and Challenges.

Click here to download the full infographic highlighting the savings the NHS could make if nurses took the stairs and ditched the lift.

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