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The new managing director of LivingWell health clubs, Patrick Fitzgibbon, has said he believes the health and fitness industry has a vital role to play in helping tackle the UK’s health crisis – but that the industry has to develop its credibility in the government’s eyes first.

“We don’t have a national health service in this country,” Fitzgibbon told Health Club Management, “we have a national sickness service.

“If you want to talk to someone about being healthier where do you go – generally you only go to a doctor when you’re sick. The opportunity for this industry to offer advice on staying healthy has never been greater because that service just doesn’t exist at the moment.”

However, Fitzgibbon claims that before the government agrees to offer the public incentives to join health clubs, the industry must solve the issues of retention, staff training and staff pay.

“Before we do anything we have to get our existing business right,” he said. “We have to start giving members what we promise when they join and help them achieve their goals.”

“We also cannot continue to pay fitness instructors £11-12,000 a year and expect them to stay with us,” he said. “If we make this industry more credible by giving members what they come to us for in the first place, we can afford to ask for a higher premium and in turn pay our staff more.”

Later this year the company is to announce a pledge to members to ensure it is delivering.

Fitzgibbon also told HCM that he intends to continue expanding the LivingWell brand by opening new LivingWell Premier sites in Australia – two will open in October and a third in early 2005 – and rolling out 50 Hilton Express sites worldwide in the next two years. There are no European or UK expansion plans however. Details: HCM September 04 p.28

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The new managing director of LivingWell health clubs, Patrick Fitzgibbon, has said he believes the health and fitness industry has a vital role to play in helping tackle the UK’s health crisis – but that the industry has to develop its credibility in the government’s eyes first.
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