• GPs will soon be able to prescribe walking, wheeling and cycling as part of a new trial launched to improve the nation’s health.
  • Available in 11 local authority areas, social prescriptions will include cycle training, bike loans and access to walking groups.
  • It is hoped that by encouraging people to exercise there will be fewer incidences of disease across Britain, reducing the burden on the NHS.

A new pilot scheme will allow GPs to give out cycling and walking prescriptions as part of a nationwide initiative to improve people’s mental and physical health.

Thanks to £12.7 million in multi-year funding, 11 local authority areas will be involved in the trial that will see the launch of several pilot projects, including adult cycle training, free bike loans and walking groups.

Other projects include cycling taster days for all abilities and walking and cycling mental health groups.

The activities are to be delivered in friendly environments, with the groups providing the opportunity for people to connect with their communities while getting active.

Walking and Cycling Minister, Trudy Harrison, said: “Walking and cycling has so many benefits – from improving air quality in our communities to reducing congestion on our busiest streets.

It also has an enormous positive impact on physical and mental health, which is why we have funded these projects which will get people across the country moving and ease the burden on our NHS.”

Improvements to infrastructure will also be introduced alongside the scheme, ensuring people feel safe cycling and walking.

The scheme is set to continue until 2025 and will undergo monitoring to evaluate its effectiveness in reducing GP appointments and people’s reliance on medications.

Former Olympic gold medal cyclist, Chris Boardman, is also involved in the scheme as part of his role as National Active Travel Commissioner.

Boardman believes the pilots will lead to a healthier nation, with “less cancer, heart disease and diabetes, as well as huge cost savings.

“This trial aims to build on existing evidence to show how bringing transport, active travel and health together can make a positive impact on communities across England.”

It’s estimated the NHS currently spends £10 billion a year on diabetes, which is at least 10% of its entire budget.[1] Physical activity has been shown to help prevent type 2 diabetes and other metabolic conditions.

Minister for Health, Maria Caulfield, said: “Getting active is hugely beneficial for both our mental and physical health – helping reduce stress and ward off other illness such as heart disease and obesity.

“The UK is leading the way in embedding social prescribing in our NHS and communities across the country. We’ve already exceeded our target to ensure over 900,000 people are referred to social prescribing schemes by 2023-24 and this pilot will help us identify further schemes to reduce disparities and boost mental and physical wellbeing across the country.”

The 11 local authorities taking part in the social prescriptions scheme are:

  • Bath and North East Somerset
  • Bradford
  • Cornwall
  • Cumbria
  • Doncaster
  • Gateshead
  • Leeds
  • Nottingham
  • Plymouth
  • Suffolk
  • Staffordshire

[1] https://www.england.nhs.uk/2022/03/nhs-prevention-programme-cuts-chances-of-type-2-diabetes-for-thousands/#:~:text=Evidence%20has%20shown%20that%20the,effective%20in%20the%20long%2Dterm.


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