North Ayrshire’s leisure chief has congratulated staff for the progress they have made this year amid the pandemic.

Malcolm McPhail, KA Leisure’s new Interim CEO, spoke of the “incredible pride” he has for KA Leisure staff and everything they have already achieved this year, after attending North Ayrshire Council’s Cabinet meeting this week.

At Tuesday’s meeting (September 28) Mr McPhail provided an update on progress that’s been made this year with implementing KA Leisure’s Recovery and Renewal Plan, which was approved by the Cabinet in February.

However, he also acknowledged that there’s still much more they would like to do and they have set ambitious goals for the future.

Encouraging and keeping people active remains KA Leisure’s primary goal but Covid-19 has presented new challenges in how that is achieved. It has also brought into stark focus the importance of using physical activity to improve public health, support underlying health conditions and engage with communities.

Fitness activities usually account for more than 50 per cent of KA Leisure’s customer visits per year and more than £2million annual income. During the pandemic they lost over half of their fitness memberships.

While the pandemic presented enormous challenges the organisation has also learned a lot and staff have demonstrated their ability to work dynamically and adapt to different ways of working.

When the pandemic started KA Leisure didn’t press the pause button, they developed a revised Health and Wellbeing Service to fit with lockdown restrictions and ongoing Government guidelines.

The Health and Wellbeing Service has gone from strength to strength and KA leisure is committed to continuing to deliver innovative programmes through collaboration with key partners.

One of their objectives is to engage with priority groups which includes people who are vulnerable, isolated and at greatest risk of inactivity.

Early intervention, by offering the right support at the right time to people, can target specific health conditions including long-term conditions, to prevent further illness and improve mental health and wellbeing.

For example, ‘Doorstep visits’ were created to offer one-to-one support to vulnerable and frail people in the community who are at risk of a fall, so they can continue to live independently.

As part of their new approach to physical activity, health and wellbeing they opened the Bridgegate Active Zone and Health and Wellbeing Hub, Irvine, in May this year.

Mr McPhail said: “I’m incredibly proud of all the staff and I’d like to thank them for their ongoing dedication, hard work, and continued enthusiasm through challenging times.

“They have achieved incredible things to help our ongoing recovery and renewal.

“We’re also very grateful for the council’s continued support and our many wonderful partners.

“This is a hugely exciting time for our organisation but our future success will depend on us delivering an agile and resilient structure.

“As the country begins to recover from the restrictions of the past 18 months, we’re focused on supporting communities and encouraging more people to get more active.

“We have brilliant venues, many of them built in recent years with some of the best health and wellbeing technology you’ll find anywhere.

“We also have a vibrant community sport programme and a fantastic Health and Wellbeing Service.

“But there’s still so much more that we want to do to encourage the people of North Ayrshire to be more active, more often so they can live longer, healthier and happier lives.”