The National ReferAll Database: an open dataset of exercise referral schemes across the UK

James Steele, Matthew Wade, Robert J. Copeland, Stuart Stokes, Rachel Stokes, Steven Mann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2014, The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) called for the development of a system to collate local data on exercise referral schemes (ERS). This database would be used to facilitate continued evaluation of ERS. The use of health databases can spur scientific investigation and the generation of evidence regarding healthcare practice. NICE’s recommendation has not yet been met by public health bodies. Through collaboration between ukactive, ReferAll, a specialist in software solutions for exercise referral, and the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, which has its research hub at the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre, in Sheffield, data has been collated from multiple UK-based ERS to generate one of the largest databases of its kind. This database moves the research community towards meeting NICEs recommendation. This paper describes the formation and open sharing of The National ReferAll Database, data-cleaning processes, and its structure, including outcome measures. Collating data from 123 ERSs on 39,283 individuals, a database has been created containing both scheme and referral level characteristics in addition to outcome measures over time. The National ReferAll Database is openly available for researchers to interrogate. The National ReferAll Database represents a potentially valuable resource for the wider research community, as well as policy makers and practitioners in this area, which will facilitate a better understanding of ERS and other physical-activity-related social prescribing pathways to help inform public health policy and practice.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2021

Cite this