Four doctors have written to the British Medical Journal urging more National Health Service Trusts to take up the Government's Cycle to Work scheme.
Christopher Jack and Max Edwards, both specialist registrars in trauma and orthopaedics at Princess Royal University Hospital, Orpington, their colleague Mirant Parikh, an associate specialist, and Samuel Rajaratnam, consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Eastbourne District General Hospital, East Sussex, called for mass participation in the scheme, which enables employees to receive discounts on bikes of between 30 and 50 percent.
"Despite the known health benefits of cycling to work, most NHS employees do not have access to the Cycle to Work scheme," they said. "Only 67 of the 418 trusts are participating. We advocate mass participation of NHS trusts to ensure the opportunity for health promotion in 1.2 million employees."
In 2006 the London Cycling Campaign and NHS London Travel Planners Network jointly published a report on the Cycle to Work scheme. It said the main barrier for NHS Trusts was having to liaise with several different partners and persuade them to co-operate during the setup of the scheme. However, the report noted that once schemes were operational they tended to run fairly smoothly.
Some NHS Trusts only allow applications during a certain period while others accept applications on an ongoing basis. Administrative burden was the reason cited by those Trusts which offer the scheme for a limited period.
BikeRadar spoke exclusively to Bikes for the NHS, the leading provider of the Cycle to Work scheme in the NHS. The company has run more than 130 schemes at 50 NHS Trusts since it was established in 2006, supplying over 3,000 bikes.
"More and more NHS Trusts are implementing Cycle to Work schemes but it is fair to say that the NHS has not been at the forefront of offering it to their staff," Bikes for the NHS said in response to the doctors' protests.
"Public sector organisations frequently lag behind private sector employers when making these types of benefits available. We find that internal pressure from employees has a positive effect on NHS Trusts running the scheme."
When asked about the potential barriers for NHS Trusts in implementing the scheme, Bikes for the NHS outlined a variety of reasons, including a lack of understanding of the rules, a misconception that it will be a lot of work for them and they don’t have the resources, and the mistaken belief that they will have to use public funds upfront to pay for bikes.
Bikes for the NHS stressed that their system involves no upfront financial outlay, cashflow neutral invoicing, marketing and order processing included at no extra cost, limited internal admin, a choice of using local bike shops or mail order, and full advice and guidance on internal processes for human resources, payroll and finance departments.