UK: GPs to prescribe walking and cycling to improve health

PA Media: The government intends to improve overall health and tackle health disparities through more physical activity

Source – BBC News

Three Yorkshire cities are among 11 places where doctors are to start prescribing walking and cycling to boost mental and physical health. The new Gear Change Plan pilots would be “hugely beneficial” to overall mental and physical health, said the Department for Transport (DfT).

Whilst there is a community health benefit, the move is not entirely altruistic. Walking and cycling minister Trudy Harrison said more cycling and walking would “ease the burden on our NHS”, She also says that it will help with “improving air quality and reducing congestion”. The government-funded plan aims to reduce the number of GP appointments and people’s reliance on medication.

What are the trials?

  • The government is developing the pilots with the NHS and Sport England
  • They include adult cycle training for all abilities, plus more walking groups for exercise and mental health
  • Free bike loans will be offered
  • Wheelchair and mobility scooter-users will also benefit
  • The pilots run until 2025 in Bradford, Leeds, Doncaster, Cumbria, Gateshead, Nottingham, Staffordshire, Suffolk, Plymouth, Cornwall, Bath and NE Somerset

Source: The Department for Health and Department for Transport

The government-funded plan aims to reduce the number of GP appointments and people’s reliance on medication.

The government said the authorities must also improve infrastructure so people felt safe walking and cycling.

Credit: BBC News – Cyclist Chris Boardman is commissioner of National Active Travel, the government agency which improves the UK’s cycling and walking infrastructure

“We need healthier, cheaper and more pleasant ways to get around for everyday trips,” said cyclist Chris Boardman, commissioner of National Active Travel, a government agency set up to improve the UK’s cycling and walking infrastructure.

“Moving more will lead to a healthier nation, a reduced burden on the NHS, less cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and huge cost savings.”

In 2020, Public Health England research found being overweight or obese means greater risk of serious illness or death from Covid-19 and ministers estimated two-thirds of UK adults were overweight.

However, the scheme is not without its doubters. While GPs agree the pilot funding is “great news”, with obesity a risk factor for Type-2 diabetes, cancers, liver and respiratory disease, some say overstretched surgeries cannot take on even more work created by the pilots.

Read the full story here on BBC News.

Food for thought for us here in Australia where our hospitals, doctors and ambulances are reeling under the pressure of dealing with the ongoing effects of Covid and its effect on the whole health system.

And we would also benefit greatly from having a Federal Government funded National Active Travel Agency with a high profile Commissioner like Chris Boardman.

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