GPs prescribe walking and cycling to ease pressure on NHS | NHS | Panda Anku

GPs across England are set to prescribe activities such as walking or cycling for patients to help ease the burden on the NHS by improving mental and physical health.

The £12.7million study, announced by the Department for Transport and set to begin this year, is part of a broader ‘social prescribing’ movement, an approach already used in the NHS that sees patients for non-medical purposes activities are transferred .

In 2020, the government launched studies into the impact of engaging in the natural environment on mental health and well-being, while social prescribing has also been embraced in many other countries, including Australia, where GPs have started teaching patients 5k park runs prescribe.

Health Secretary Maria Caulfield said the UK is leading the way in embedding social prescriptions in the NHS and communities across the country.

“Getting active is hugely beneficial for both our mental and physical health, helping to reduce stress and ward off other diseases like heart disease and obesity,” she said.

The latest trial will focus specifically on encouraging active travel and will take place in 11 local areas across England including Cornwall, Bradford and Leeds, including free bike hire, cycling taster days for all abilities and mental health walking and cycling groups Pilot projects are to be supported by the funding.

The Department for Transport said alongside the trials, which are part of the government’s gear shift plan to be released in 2020, to encourage walking and cycling, the infrastructure is in place to help people feel safe doing such activities.

It is hoped that the pilots, to be made available over the next three years via existing social prescribing systems and networks, will help shed light on whether activities such as cycling and walking, among other things, can help reduce doctor visits and reduce patients’ dependency on medicines Measures to protect people’s health.

Chris Boardman, former Olympic cycling champion and commissioner of National Active Travel, welcomed the move.

“More exercise will result in a healthier nation, a lighter burden on the NHS, less cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and huge cost savings,” he said. “This study aims to build on existing evidence to show how combining transport, active travel and health can have a positive impact on communities across England.”

dr But David Strain, chair of the BMA Science Committee, said more needs to be done.

“These excellent pilots are to be welcomed, but to meaningfully reduce health inequalities, climate change and physical inactivity requires much more long-term investment, both in public health approaches and in capacity and an active transport infrastructure across the country,” he said.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said he welcomes news of the additional investment, which will allow the NHS to try new ways of supporting mental health, such as through social prescription programmes.

But, he added, prescribing exercise isn’t a magic bullet for treating mental health issues.

“What we desperately need is proper investment in our nation’s mental health services,” he said. “Only this will allow us to support the 1.6 million people who are currently on waiting lists and the 8 million people who would currently benefit from mental health support but are not deemed ill enough by the system, to access it.”

It’s not just physical activities that have received attention under the banner of social prescribing: the government has previously been urged to fund reading-based activities to combat loneliness.

Now, a survey of more than 1,600 adults by the charity The Reader found that 75% of those who read regularly believe it is good for their mental health.

Katie Clark, literary director at The Reader, said the free reading groups are a lifeline for people in difficult times.

“At a time when so many of us, especially many younger people, those with mental health problems or poverty, are facing increasing pressure, we are calling for more collaborative reading groups in more communities and ministries across the UK,” she said.

Leave a Comment